The road to Omaha is a long one, but the teams competing in the 2014 NCAA super regionals are well-equipped to make a run in the College World Series if they can escape their current opponents in a three-game set.
While this tournament may not be the most exciting tourney in college sports, diehard baseball fans won't want to miss a single pitch of the supers. If you love games where each pitch is filled with emotion, then this is the tournament for you.
Each matchup in the supers will provide quality baseball. That said, there are three matchups in particular that have me excited. Those are the three that you should prioritize above the others.
I'll break down those three matchups below.
Charlottesville Super Regional
Maryland and No. 3 Virginia will square off in the Charlottesville Super Regional beginning on June 7 and ending after one of the teams records two wins over the other.
This series is worth watching because of how dominant Virginia can be. As the preseason No. 1 team, Virginia struggled a bit out of the gate and fell to No. 3 in the rankings. Despite the fall, coach Brian O'Connor is still proud of his guys, via Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press:
I am proud. I am really proud of this club. Every club is different. Last year was a team of guys who were unproven and second years trying to push it forward. This team comes in with enormous expectations and managed those really well. To be the regional champions here and to go into another Super Regional is consistent and speaks to the quality of players that were consistently recruiting, it speaks to the consistency of the assistant coaches who remained loyal to the program. I am really proud. I think in sports when you accomplish great things you need to enjoy this, so we will enjoy it and then look forward to next week.
Virginia is a solid team fundamentally. The Cavaliers don't make many errors, their pitchers love to pound the zone with strike after strike and their hitters capitalize with runners on base. This team doesn't rely on the long ball to get runners home. Instead, it hits well situationally.
Maryland is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1971. The Terrapins finished the season at 39-21, and they shockingly defeated South Carolina this past weekend to advance to the supers.
This series will be compelling because of the streak Maryland is currently on. Virginia is the far better club because of its prowess in playing fundamental baseball, but Maryland's hot streak makes them something of a threat.
Fort Worth Super Regional
Hosting their fourth super regional in team history, the No. 7 TCU Horned Frogs will look to defeat Pepperdine and move on to Omaha.
For TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, this is a scenario he began dreaming about years ago, via Jordan Ray of TCU360.com: "I remember the day that I took this job, at night, I was here by myself. I walked out in to dead center field and the thing I envisioned 11 years ago would be to play a super regional in this park."
TCU had to stave off Sam Houston State in 22 innings in Game 2 of their regional matchup before defeating them yet again the following game to advance. There will come a time when that 22-inning marathon catches up to the pitching staff, and it very well may come during the Fort Worth Super Regional.
It took a game-winning, bases-loaded triple by Bryan Langlois in the ninth inning to propel Pepperdine to the supers. The Waves were a strong 42-16 this year, and they'll look to jump on the Frogs' likely tired staff early and often.
The key to getting after an overused staff is to wait out the pitchers by working counts and then jumping on mistakes. Getting into the bullpen early will be crucial for the Waves in this matchup.
Lafayette Super Regional
Watch out for Louisiana-Lafayette star Jace Conrad in this one. The Ragin' Cajuns second baseman won Most Outstanding Player of the Lafayette Regional, and he'll look to do more damage against the Ole Miss pitching staff.
The second baseman displays good power for a middle infielder, as evidenced by this grand slam against Jackson State that likely helped him win the aforementioned honor:
The Ragin' Cajuns might have problems teeing off against Ole Miss, however, as the Saturday start to the series will allow the Rebels to keep their staff on regular rest. That means they'll throw out their top starters for each game of the three-game set.
These two teams are just two of the seven No. 1 seeds left on the road to Omaha, but they are the only two teams to face each other in the supers. Needless to say, the implications of this series are huge.
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