Michael Woods/Associated Press
It’s been nearly two years since the last College World Series as the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. But soon, the top programs in the country will be battling it out to try to win the national championship as the 2021 campaign nears its conclusion.
Many of the major conference tournaments won’t be taking place until the final week of May, with the regular season finishing up over the next two weeks. There will be 30 automatic qualifiers for the NCAA tournament, which will feature 64 schools and get underway in early June.
As the regular season winds down, here’s a look at the top 25 teams in the latest RPI rankings.
RPI Rankings (Per D1Baseball.com)
1. Arkansas (37-9)
2. Mississippi State (35-11)
3. Texas (38-12)
4. TCU (34-12)
5. Fairfield (32-1)
6. Vanderbilt (35-10)
7. Arizona (32-13)
8. Tennessee (38-11)
9. Texas Tech (31-11)
10. Oregon (30-11)
11. Ole Miss (33-14)
12. Notre Dame (26-10)
13. Old Dominion (33-13)
14. East Carolina (33-10)
15. South Carolina (28-18)
16. Oklahoma State (28-15-1)
17. Charlotte (35-14)
18. Indiana State (24-12)
19. Stanford (27-10)
20. LSU (30-18)
21. Florida (33-15)
22. Miami (27-15)
23. Gonzaga (27-13)
24. Oregon State (31-15)
25. Louisiana Tech (33-13)
There are a bunch of strong teams in the SEC this season, but none have been better than Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 37-9 (17-7 in conference play), and they’re going to be tough to beat when the SEC tournament unfolds.
Arkansas has a balanced lineup, with four everyday players who are batting above .300 and five who have hit 10 or more home runs. Its offense has been powered by senior infielder Matt Goodheart, who is batting .310 with 12 homers in 38 games.
Even though the Razorbacks have faced a lot of strong SEC competition, they haven’t slowed down. In fact, Arkansas notched its eighth straight conference series win when it took two of three games at home against Georgia this past weekend.
“I think we just focus on bringing energy, and we never really get down on ourselves in any game,” Razorbacks redshirt senior right-hander Kevin Kopps recently said, per Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Momentum shifts between teams, but I think we do a good job of holding our own in these types of games.”
The schedule isn’t going to get easier for Arkansas, either. It has a big three-game series against Tennessee this weekend, then a three-game set against Florida next week before the SEC tournament gets underway.
Along with Tennessee, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are among the other SEC teams that have the potential to make a deep run to the College World Series.
The Commodores can be especially tough to beat because of the pair of dominant right-handers they have atop their rotation. Sophomore Jack Leiter is the No. 1 prospect in the 2021 MLB draft class, and junior Kumar Rocker is ranked No. 3, per MLB Pipeline.
Vanderbilt will also be looking to win its second consecutive national title, as it won the last College World Series in 2019, defeating Michigan 2-1 in a three-game set in which Rocker was named the Most Outstanding Player.
While the SEC has quite a few top teams, there are programs from other conferences that are likely to be among the contenders to win the national championship. The Big 12 has a trio of top-tier teams (Texas, TCU and Texas Tech), while Notre Dame (ACC) and Oregon (Pac-12) are among the best teams from other conferences.
However, a lot can still change over the next few weeks, as teams will be looking to get hot at the right time and build momentum toward the postseason. And after not having an NCAA tournament in 2020, it should be exciting to watch these programs that are hungry to make a championship run.