With the 2014 Major League Baseball draft taking place last week, many of the top college stars playing on teams in the NCAA Super Regionals suddenly find themselves generating a lot more attention.
The good news is the draft helps bring attention to what has been a very surprising and unpredictable college baseball season. There were 64 teams that entered, only to be whittled down to 16 for the Super Regionals, and five of those teams have already punched a ticket to the College World Series.
Three series remain deadlocked at one game each with the third and decisive games taking place Monday night. We have all the information you need to watch these matchups, as well as predictions for who is going to Omaha.
2014 Super Regionals: Teams That Already Advanced
|UC Irvine (def. Oklahoma State)|
|Texas (def. Houston)|
|Louisville (def. Kennesaw State)|
|Vanderbilt (def. Stanford)|
|Texas Tech (def. College of Charleston)|
2014 Super Regional Game 3 Matchups and Schedule
|Pepperdine (43-17) at TCU (46-16)||June 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET||ESPN2|
|Mississippi (49-19) at Louisiana-Lafayette (58-9)||June 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET||ESPN2|
|Maryland (40-22) at Virginia (48-14)||June 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET||ESPNU|
Pepperdine at TCU
It's not every day that you will find a No. 1 seed throwing a freshman in a do-or-die situation, but TCU's Tyler Alexander doesn't fit the typical description of a first-year hurler. He's been masterful this season, posting a 10-3 record and throwing back-to-back complete games in his last two starts (Big 12 tournament and NCAA regional clincher against Sam Houston State).
Which team will pull off the upset in the NCAA Super Regionals?
If there's a team that can break down Alexander's barriers, it's Pepperdine. The Waves have made some waves with the bats lately, scoring 16 runs in their last two regional games against Sacramento State and top-ranked Cal Poly.
Pitching was the name of the game in Pepperdine's Game 2 victory over TCU. Aaron Brown threw seven scoreless innings in a 3-2 win that forced the decisive final game.
As has been the case in the tournament since the new bats were introduced, pitching is the name of the game. TCU's going with its most consistent starter, while Pepperdine's Jackson McClelland has the highest ERA (3.53) and batting average against (.266) among the team's starters.
Prediction: TCU, 3-2
Mississippi at Louisiana-Lafayette
Fans of offense will want to watch this game, because Mississippi and Louisiana-Lafayette puts runs on the board in a hurry. These two teams ranked in the top 11 for batting average and total hits.
The difference is Louisana-Lafayette's offense is more potent, also ranking in the top five for home runs, total runs, runs per game and slugging percentage. The Ragin' Cajuns are also balanced on offense, with six regulars hitting over .300 and two others over .280.
There's also the matter of Mississippi playing on an unnatural surface that it's not accustomed to. Cajun Field uses artificial turf, so the ball moves faster and finds holes on the infield. Defenders have to be on their toes, ready to move in an instant or risk an easy grounder getting through the hole.
Louisiana-Lafayette has the home-field advantage heading into this decisive game, and it has done nothing to put doubts about its ability to take care of things at home.
Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette, 7-3
Maryland at Virginia
Of the three games Monday, this is the one that I am most sure about. Virginia entered the 2014 season as the team to beat. Aaron Fitt of Baseball America wrote in a season preview that this Cavaliers squad is loaded.
The Cavaliers, who have reached the 50-win plateau in three of the last four years, return eight starters from a team that ranked in the nation’s top 10 last year in scoring, doubles, triples, slugging and walks. Virginia’s highest previous ranking in the preseason was No. 2 in 2010.
If that's not enough, head coach Brian O'Connor's club just had three players selected on Day 1 of the MLB draft (Nick Howard, Derek Fisher, Mike Papi).
The Cavaliers also boast one of the best and deepest pitching staffs in college baseball, ranking first in WHIP (1.02), third in ERA (2.29) and eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.91).
Maryland does have strikeout pitchers on its staff, ranking ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (8.2), but its most prolific strikeout artist, right-hander Jake Stinnett (132 in 118 innings) has already started a game in this series.
The Cavaliers are the most talented team on paper and should be playing for a College World Series when all is said and done.
Prediction: Virginia, 4-1
If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.