From A(rkansas) to Z(ero Days), Let the 2024 Season Begin!

Everything you need to know about college baseball heading into the 2024 season.

College baseball from A to Z

It’s finally here. After a long winter, first pitches will be thrown throughout the country today as a new season gets underway. Optimism abounds in fan bases throughout the nation whether they’re the defending champions or rebuilding one year at a time. So, without further ado, here is a look at the 2024 college baseball season from A to Z:


Is this the Razorbacks year? Arkansas enters the season ranked in the top four in every major poll and are eager to move on from last year’s home regional exit. The Razorbacks are tied for the third-most appearances (11) all time in the College World Series without claiming a title. Head coach Dave Van Horn alone has taken Arkansas to seven of those and he’s got the roster to finally get over the hump — not only do the Razorbacks have an elite rotation, but they’ve got fantastic bullpen depth and a lineup that mixes veteran returnees with some big-name transfers.


The last team to win back-to-back national championships was South Carolina in 2010-11. The Gamecocks, under head coach Ray Tanner, beat UCLA and Florida in consecutive years on the world’s biggest stage. Nobody’s done it since, with Vanderbilt reaching the finals twice after winning but losing both times. Now, defending title winners LSU enter the year as the consensus No. 2 team in the country and have the talent — headlined by Tommy White, Luke Holman, and Thatcher Hurd — to make a run at it.


The NCAA Division I baseball committee announced that it adjusted its selection process to modify the “quadrants” on its team sheets — instead of simply bucketing based on RPI ranks 1-25, 26-50, 50-100, and 100+, they’ll now adjust them based on the location of the actual game. They also incorporated KPI and restructured regional advisory committees. Although, Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill dug into the changes and found that it’ll likely have little impact.


In 2023 alone, seven teams returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10-plus seasons. Penn (28 years), Santa Clara (26 years), Nicholls State (25 years), and San Jose State (21 years) all ended streaks of 20-plus seasons without a bid. Who will be next to end a spell on the outside looking in? Some early favorites include Kansas State (last appearance: 2013), USC (2015), and Rutgers (2007).


There’ve been plenty of high-profile contract extensions since last season. Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan recently inked one that keeps him in charge of the Gators through 2033 — while raising his salary by nearly half a million dollars to $1.84 million. A few other notable extensions include LSU’s Jay Johnson, South Carolina’s Mark Kingston and North Carolina’s Scott Forbes.


Iowa’s Brody Brecht. Wake Forest’s Chase Burns. Florida’s Jac Caglianone. All three — as ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel noted — hit 101 mph this fall/preseason, with Brecht topping out at 102 mph. As D1 Baseball’s “Heat Sheet” tracking can attest, the threshold to land amongst the nation’s elite continues to rise. Keep an eye on the radar guns when they’re pointed at the likes of Vanderbilt’s Greysen Carter, Alabama’s Pierce George, Arkansas’ Hagen Smith, and Auburn’s Chase Allsup.

Gary Gilmore

It’s a final season for the longtime Coastal Carolina head coach, who announced his plans to retire after this season last May. He’s won over 1,300 games since taking over the Chanticleers in 1996 and built them into a powerhouse, ultimately winning a College World Series title in 2016.

Home runs

If you’ve been following college baseball for some time, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that last season was off the charts when it came to home runs per game. Whether it was bats, balls, the pitch clock, you name it — the sheer number of long balls hit on a game-to-game basis has reached a level comparable to the “Gorilla Ball” Era.


Advocates for a longer ramp-up period for pitchers in the spring were left frustrated with a series of announcements leading up to the season. North Carolina’s Jake Knapp and Ole Miss’ Xavier Rivas both saw their 2024 seasons end before it started due to UCL tears. For the Rebels, it was a particularly painful repeat of last year — Hunter Elliott suffered a UCL sprain after his Opening Day start in 2023.

Jac and JJ

Two of the best players in the country, coincidentally, both start with the letter ‘J’: Florida’s Jac Caglianone and West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt. Caglianone is a premier two-way player, clubbing 33 home runs last year while serving as the Gators’ Sunday starter on their run to the College World Series finals. Wetherholt, meanwhile, does just about everything for the Mountaineers: He led the nation in average at .449, racked up 42 extra-base hits, and swiped 36 bases.



A look at the Golden Spikes Watch List, highlighted by two-way star and returning finalist Jac Caglianone.


Home runs aren’t the only thing that have been climbing in college baseball. As you might expect, strikeouts (and walks) have risen as well. Much like the trends at the Major League Baseball level, the sport has gradually seen the percentage of at bats ending in one of the “three true outcomes” — strikeout, walk, or home run — rise. Over one-third of at bats in 2023 met that criteria, a full eight percentage points higher than a decade prior.


In 2023, Oral Roberts ran rampant over the Summit League — the Golden Eagles went 23-1 and swept through the conference tournament. More success followed as they won the Stillwater Regional — as a No. 4 seed — and the Eugene Super Regional before logging a win in Omaha. Who could follow in their footsteps? While these clubs may not fit the mold of a smaller conference club like Oral Roberts, the likes of Troy, UC Irvine, and Dallas Baptist could make deep runs.

Mini Tournaments

Showdowns. Classics. Invitationals. The early season schedule is inundated with events that see top programs around the country congregate at MLB and MiLB ballparks like GlobeLife Field, Minute Maid Park, or spring training fields in Arizona. Having trouble keeping track? Check out a full list with schedule and streaming details here.

Number One Pick

One thing’s almost for certain: The No. 1 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft will be coming out of the college ranks. The biggest question is just who it will be. As Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo wrote, “A defining feature of the 2024 draft class is that there’s no definition at the top.” Those in contention include the likes of West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt, Wake Forest’s Nick Kurtz, Oregon State’s Travis Bazzana, Florida’s Jac Caglianone, Northeastern’s Mike Sirota, and North Carolina’s Vance Honeycutt.

Opening Weekend

While the first weekend of college baseball doesn’t feature a single ranked series, there are still some standout matchups outside of the tournaments (see above). No. 10 Clemson hosts a Xavier club that won the Big East last year. Campbell, fresh off its move from the CAA, hosts No. 17 UC Santa Barbara — a preaseason Omaha sleeper pick. Other highlights include No. 23 Northeastern heading to Arizona, Charlotte hosting Virginia Tech, and Stetson against West Virginia.


It’s the final hurrah for the most historic conference in college baseball. Dubbed the “Conference of Champions”, the Pac-12 has won 29 titles — a full 14 more than the current standard bearers, the SEC. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah are headed to the Big 12; UCLA, Oregon, USC, and Washington are headed to the Big Ten; and California and Stanford depart to the ACC in August of this year. Oregon State will play an independent schedule next year while Washington State is still figuring out its options.


If you were to rattle off a list of questions off the top of the head heading into the season, they might go something like this. Can LSU go back-to-back? Is Wake Forest’s pitching staff going to be too much to handle? Who is going to “crash the party” at Omaha like Oral Roberts did a season ago? Will the NCAA selection committee make any questionable decisions around the bubble once again? Can anyone actually compete with Jac Caglianone for the Golden Spikes if he reaches his ceiling on the mound? Who goes first overall in the MLB Draft?


Is your head spinning with all of the news around realignment? The Pac-12 is one casualty, but it’s far from the only shift within the college baseball ranks. For now, here’s some of the bigger changes heading into 2024.

  • Charlotte, UAB, Rice, UTSA, and Florida Atlantic joined The American
  • Campbell joined the CAA
  • Houston, Cincinnati, BYU, and UCF joined the Big 12
  • Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State, and Sam Houston State joined Conference USA


“It Just Means More.” The Southeastern Conference has continued to exert its dominance over college baseball, winning four straight tiles and five of the last six. Over those six years, the SEC has accounted for nine of the 12 teams that made it to the College World Series finals. They’ve got six of the top 10 in the composite polls, so there’s a good chance that streak continues. Who could stop that streak? The four highest-ranked non-SEC teams are No. 1 Wake Forest, No. 5 TCU, No. 7 Oregon State, and No. 10 Virginia.

Transfer Portal

Plugging holes in a lineup or rotation via the transfer portal is the name of the game in college baseball. Texas A&M landed Stanford’s Braden Montgomery, an impact bat — and potential arm — who ranks as the No. 9 2024 Draft prospect. Plenty of other high-end talents moved from Power Five schools — Alabama’s Luke Holman went to LSU, Tennessee’s Chase Burns went to Wake Forest, NC State’s Cannon Peebles went to Tennessee, and so on. D1 Baseball now ranks the “Top 130 Impact Transfers” if that’s any indication of the proliferation of big names moving around.


For the second year in a row, we’ve got an unanimous No. 1: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons — even with a plethora of talent departing via the draft — look remarkably dangerous this season as they seek to avenge coming up short in Omaha last year. It starts with the three-headed monster of a rotation: Josh Hartle, TBurns, and Michael Massey. Then, of course, there’s two top-10 MLB Draft prospects in Kurtz and outfielder Seaver King.



Wake Forest: After an Omaha appearance, the Deacs enter 2024 as the consensus No. 1 team with a plethora of first-round talent.


College baseball’s “grow the game” efforts have not been without results: Last year’s final game of the College World Series between LSU and Florida peaked at 4.2 million viewers, per ESPN. The CWS as a whole saw remarkable numbers in comparison to the year prior. Now, in 2024, ESPN alone will feature over 4,000 games on its network of channels — including 42 on linear networks.

Weekend Rotations

Wake Forest’s trio on the mound is unquestionably elite, but they’ll have some company at the top of the nation’s leaderboards. Arkansas has Smith, Brady Tygart, and Mason Molina while Vanderbilt is absolutely brimming with talent — the Commodores will feature Carter Holton, Devin Futrell, Bryce Cunningham, and Carter. Florida, LSU, Iowa, TCU, and UC Santa Barbara stand out as well. Check out our new featured page that’ll have the rotations documented and up to date ahead of every weekend.


If you read enough preseason content, you’ll have seen the phrase “x-factor” over and over again. Every team has a player that, if they reach their full potential, can mean all the difference come May and beyond. Perhaps no bigger example of that from last year was the run that Florida’s Ty Evans went on. He entered the College World Series with four home runs to his name on the year — and just five at bats since May 1st — and clubbed five home runs in Omaha. Evans was crucial for the Gators in wins over Virginia and Oral Roberts before a two-homer game against LSU in the second game of the CWS finals.

Young Guns

Last year saw the likes of Georgia’s Charlie Condon, Clemson’s Cam Cannarella, and South Carolina’s Ethan Petry turn in monster first-year campaigns. Freshmen hitters — and pitchers, like Northeastern’s Aiven Cabral and Duke’s James Tallon — thriving from Day One is always fun to watch. Some blue-chip prospects slotted into big roles ahead of this season include Florida starter Liam Peterson, UCLA infielder Roch Cholowsky, Texas A&M third baseman Gavin Grahovac, and Duke two-way player Kyle Johnson.



Best 2023 Freshman Classes: Which programs got the largest contributions from their freshmen classes?


The number of days until the first pitch of the 2024 college baseball season!

Images via assorted athletic departments