Saturday Down South's All-SEC College World Series Team
When Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State descend upon Omaha this week, it’ll mark the 27th consecutive college baseball season — COVID-canceled 2020 notwithstanding — that at least 1 SEC team will take part in the College World Series.
College baseball’s signature event is colored in SEC hues. From “Oma-hogs” to Rally Bananas to Gorilla Ball, some of the CWS’ best performances have come courtesy of the conference’s schools, players and fans.
With that in mind, we put together an SEC fantasy lineup composed of the series’ best individual performers. These aren’t the biggest names, necessarily, but they did have some of the biggest impacts in Omaha — and, in turn, on their league’s illustrious baseball history.
P: Alex Faedo, Florida, 2017
TCU players from ’17 likely still see the big, powerful right-hander in their sleep. In 2 wins against the Horned Frogs, Faedo tossed 14 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 22 batters while yielding just 5 hits. Florida went on to sweep LSU in that year’s championship series for the program’s first national title. Faedo was selected in the 1st round of the 2017 draft. He is in the Tigers’ minor league system but will miss the 2021 season while recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
P: Michael Roth, South Carolina, 2010-11
The Gamecocks will always have the prestigious honor of winning it all in both the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium and the first go-round at TD Ameritrade Park a year later. They also are the most recent team to repeat as CWS champions (2010, 11). Roth was a big reason, compiling a 1.17 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 8 appearances spread across the 2 series.
P: Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt (2019)
Rocker’s story isn’t finished as Vandy is headed back to Omaha, but what a start.
He threw a no-hitter in a 2019 Super Regional, and while that doesn’t help his case to make this CWS team, it served further notice that he would be a force in Omaha.
He was. Rocker went 2-0, striking out 17 in 12 1/3 innings as the Vandy Boys won their 2nd CWS title. Rocker was named the Most Outstanding Player. He now has a chance to become the first player to win MOP twice.
C: Gary Hymel, LSU, 1991
The catcher for LSU’s 1991 championship team was born and raised in Baton Rouge. His standout showing in Omaha as a senior earned Hymel CWS Most Outstanding Player honors, and his four home runs are the most of any SEC player during the College World Series.
1B: Will Clark, Mississippi State, 1985
Clark shows up on pretty much every all-time CWS anything list for good reason. Although the Bulldogs fell short of the championship game, Clark went 8-for-15 with a pair of home runs, 4 extra-base hits, 5 RBIs and 6 runs scored in ’85.
2B: Todd Walker, LSU, 1993-94
A 2-time all-American like Clark, Walker hit 3 home runs and batted in 12 runs for national champ LSU in 1993 en route to Most Outstanding Player honors. He led the Tigers back to Omaha a year later, going 5-for-7 with another home run and 3 RBIs as the Tigers lost their first 2 games.
3B: Pete Alonso, Florida, 2015
Alonso is responsible for the 2 longest home runs (at that point) in TD Ameritrade Park history. His 429- and 421-foot blasts are especially impressive considering the ballpark’s unconventional orientation and winds that tend to whip around or blow in more often than not. An honorable mention here goes to Arkansas’ Jeff King, who batted a scorching .500 during the ’85 CWS, finishing 9-for-18 with a homer, 2 RBIs and 6 runs scored. King was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 draft and went on to play 1,201 major league games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals. The (hog) rub: Arkansas didn’t join the SEC until 1992.
SS: Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt, 2014-15
The current Braves shortstop remains a mainstay in Omaha lore after going 10-for-31 with 5 runs scored during Vandy’s 2014 national championship run. Swanson was named the Most Outstanding Player in 2014. He also was a main reason the Commodores made it back and finished as runners-up behind Virginia in 2015. Those combined years helped him edge LSU’s Brandon Larson, who led the Tigers to the 1997 CWS title and was named Most Outstanding Player. Larson hit 3 HRs and drove in 8 as the Tigers won their second consecutive CWS title that season.
OF: Jared Mitchell, LSU, 2009
Maybe the best all-around athlete to ever come through Omaha. Here’s the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft’s stat line from ’09: .348 (8-for-23) with a triple, 2 doubles, 2 homers and 7 RBI in 6 games. He also won the Most Outstanding Player award. Oh, and Mitchell also played receiver for the Tigers football team.
OF: Jackie Bradley Jr., SC, 2010-11
Bradley’s MLB success has come as little surprise to anyone who saw him lead the Gamecocks to back-to-back national championships in Omaha. Bradley went 10-for-29 in 2010 en route to winning the Most Outstanding Player award and was a human highlight reel in center field during the 2011 CWS.
OF: John Norwood, Vanderbilt, 2014
Norwood’s 10 hits during the 2014 CWS remain the most by any SEC outfielder in Omaha. His championship-series clinching home run in the 8th inning will go down as one of the biggest swings in SEC history.