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The Talon

The Talon

College Baseball is Back!

Image from NCAA Twitter

This weekend was Opening Weekend for College Baseball. Back on January 16, dropped their preseason power rankings. Let’s break down the top 5 teams on the list. 

First and foremost, Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Demon Deacons start off the year headlining that number one spot. Last year, they were ranked in the top three teams for 13 of the 15 weeks, never dropping out of the top five. Although they came up short in Omaha, it was a monumental season for the ball club, returning to the College World Series (CWS) for the first time since 1955. The Deacons had a stellar offseason. Along with being the number 1 seed, they were also honored with the best transfer class of the 2023-24 offseason. The star of their transfer class is former Tennessee pitcher Chase Burns. The preseason All-American looks to make a huge impact this year, returning to his roots as a starter after having a part-time bullpen job last year with the Volunteers. He joins two other studs in the rotation, Michael Massey and Josh Hartle. Massey finished 2023 with a 2.59 ERA (earned run average) and Hartle racked up 140 strikeouts. Hartle is a special talent and right now viewed as the best pitching prospect in the 2024 Draft. This is not a rotation you would like to face in a three game series and that’s for sure. 

Pitching wasn’t the only thing that carried them into the CWS last year. Their lineup is very respectable. Headlined this year by first baseman Nick Kurtz. The natural born hitter is currently slated to go first overall in the 2024 MLB Draft. His sweet, powerful lefty swing is going to make it very difficult for major league clubs to pass up on. His fellow Demon Deacon out in centerfield is also projected to be a top 15 pick in this year’s draft. Seaver King is a very versatile player, switching to outfield from shortstop. He is transferring in from Wingate which is a division two school however, King has proven himself and his talents with team USA. The team is excited to see what he brings to the table. 

Moving on with the 2-5 spots we have Florida Gators, Arkansas Razorbacks, Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers, and Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs. Out of those four, only Arkansas didn’t make a trip to Omaha. TCU fell one run short of advancing to the CWS Championship, but it was the two powerhouse teams of Florida and LSU who duked it out in the three game championship series.

LSU came out on top with a nail biter of a game three, final score being 18-4. The LSU Tigers headlined the 2023 draft with generational talents in Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews going first and second overall. That’s the first time ever college teammates get taken with the first two picks. So what’s in store for the Tigers in 2024? They won’t be the same but they will still be the team to beat. Tommy “Tanks” White came in right where he left off last season as the number one third baseman in college baseball. He’s looking to be an early first rounder next year and LSU can for sure rely on him to lead this offense this season. Obviously picking up lots of attention from last season, they have lots of new faces joining them this season via the transfer portal. Number 12 ranked starting pitcher Luke Holman makes his way down to Baton Rouge from Tuscaloosa. UCLA star pitcher Gage Jump also joins Holman in the rotation. 

Returning to that list with the Florida Gators, the runners up in last year’s CWS. After the departure of third overall draft pick, Wyatt Langford, Jac Caglianone looks to lead this offense. Not only will he lead the offense but he will also be the ace! The two way superstar was named as a first team preseason All-American as a utility player and pitcher. The 6’5 athletic specimen racked up 33 homeruns last season, accompanied by 87 strikeouts in 74.2 innings pitched on the rubber. The future top 5 pick will be accompanied by another preseason All American in Brandon Neely. The shut down reliever was named to the Stopper of the Year watch list. Definitely not a guy you want to see coming out of the bullpen to face you. Manager Kevin O’Sullivan, who was recently extended through 2033, looks for huge breakout years from the young guys. Sophomores Cade Kurland, Luke Heyman, and transfer Colby Shelton will be a huge part of this lineup, good or bad. Watch out, the Gators are coming.

Now onto the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas was ranked third and for good reasons. The season hasn’t started yet and it’s already not going the way they would like. Junior second baseman Peyton Stovall suffered a broken foot in last week’s scrimmage and will be out for 4-6 weeks. Terrible loss for the team, however manager Dave Van Horn is confident the infield can hold it down until Stovall returns. The only preseason All-American for the squad is Hagen Smith. The crafty starter has an unusual delivery, messing up hitters’ timing. His pitching motion helps create a 65 grade slider. He accompanies that with a fastball that touches 98. Look out for his name at this year’s draft. This is a team to be wrecking with and they look for revenge in Omaha.

TCU rounds out the top five. The Horned Frogs had their own little Cinderella run last season, being unranked going into playoffs and ending up in the CWS Semi-finals. TCU went straight to work after being sent home from CWS. They added multiple solid arms to the rotation and bullpen through the transfer portal, most notably Payton Tolle. The Wichita State transfer was named preseason All-American as a utility player and a pitcher! Only Jac Caglianone and Cole Mathis as the only other two-way players to be named preseason All-Americans in both positions. Kirk Saarloos and his team knows they have a target on their back coming into this season, unlike last season, but they are up for the challenge. Don’t sleep on those Horned Frogs.

Look forward to weekly College Baseball updates here on The Talon.

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About the Contributor
Colin McAllister
Colin McAllister, Talon Co-Editor-in-Chief
Talon Co-Editor-in-Chief McAllister has been in the Communications and Journalism Program for three years and is a member of the Class of 2025. He is an avid fan of the New York Yankees and plays baseball for the high school.