There are just sixteen schools left in this year's mens college baseball bracket, and it is anyones guess as to who will take home the sport's ultimate prize.
However, before making an appearance in Omaha for the College World Series, teams must get past the Super Regionals round, held at four different locations across the country.
While watching this weekend (Super Regionals begin Friday afternoon), make sure to pay extra attention to the following five student-athletes. Each one of these stars have excelled during the regular season in the process of helping their team reach the sport's sweet sixteen. However, things are guaranteed to get more difficult as the competition gets tougher and the lights get brighter in the Super Regionals. One thing is for certain: each of these players will be counted on to continue their season-long success and carry their teams to the pinnacle of college baseball.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference
SP Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has created one of the best professional talent pipelines in the nation, and no two players represent this better than starting pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker (more on him later). The pair of dynamic hurlers are poised to go as high as the top two picks in the upcoming MLB draft.
Leiter, the son of former MLB All Star Al Leiter, has excelled in 2021, pitching to the tune of a 9-3 record and a 2.22 ERA. What attracts scouts the most to Leiter's game is likely his elite stuff; he had a K/9 rate of 14.8 across 89 innings as a sophomore. A three-pitch repertoire that includes a nasty curveball and stifling changeup made the sophomore arguably the most dominant pitcher in the SEC this season. The highlight of the year for Leiter was a dominant 16-strikeout no-hitter against South Carolina on March 20th.
Now, the Commodores will need the New Jersey native to pitch lights-out against a talented East Carolina team desperate for their first College World Series appearance (in an NCAA-record 31 tries). While Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has yet to announce a starter for Game 1 between Leiter and Rocker, whoever takes the mound will face off against another elite arm in ECU's Gavin Williams and a lineup headlined by All-American second baseman Connor Norby.
SP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt
It's a testament to Vanderbilt's starting staff that the 2019 CWS Most Outstanding Player may not even start his team's playoff series. Still, that's no knock on Kumar Rocker, a dazzling talent with a different but just as overpowering skill set. Rocker, now a junior, turned heads for the 2019 National Champion Commodores. On top of his Most Outstanding Player award, he became the first-ever pitcher to toss a no-hitter in the Super Regionals, silencing Duke's bats in a history-making 19 strikeout performance. This season, Rocker was phenomenal, pitching to a 12-3 record with an ERA of 2.65, an improvement from his freshman year.
The fact that this year's iteration of Vandy has an even more outstanding Rocker and a new ace in Leiter is a chilling thought for the rest of the NCAA Tournament field. So far, Rocker's postseason excellence has continued; he threw a seven-inning shutout against Presbyterian in Vanderbilt's first game of the tournament. Unlike Leiter, who has limited playoff experience, Rocker has proven himself on college baseball's biggest stage numerous times. If he gets the chance to pitch in an elimination game, baseball fans across the country could be in for a can't-miss performance.
2B Jace Jung, Texas Tech
Few, if any, hitters were as good as Jace Jung was for Texas Tech this season. The slugger knocked in 20 home runs (tied for seventh best in all of Division I) and 67 RBIs to accompany a .706 slugging percentage this season. To top it off, the sophomore had an outstanding .342 batting average. Jung's dominance at the plate earned him a slew of regular season honors, such as a spot on the All-American team and the 2C