Just eight teams remain in the college baseball season, meaning that the 2014 College World Series is officially underway.
It has been a long road to Omaha, Nebraska, for these final eight teams. Aside from finding success during the regular season, each team had to make its way through their own regionals and super regionals. Only then were they granted a berth to the College World Series.
UCLA defeated Mississippi State in the tournament last season, but neither team is making a repeat appearance in 2014. In fact, Louisville is the only school to return from last year.
Which team will win it this time around? Below you'll find the complete schedule, along with a championship bracket and predictions for the tournament.
|2014 College World Series Schedule|
|June 14||3 p.m.||ESPN2||UC Irvine (40-23) vs. Texas (43-19)|
|June 14||8 p.m.||ESPN2||Louisville (50-15) vs. Vanderbilt (46-19)|
|June 15||3 p.m.||ESPN2||Texas Tech (45-19) vs. TCU (47-16)|
|June 15||8 p.m.||ESPN2||Virginia (49-14) vs. Ole Miss (46-19)|
|June 16||3 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 5|
|June 16||8 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 6|
|June 17||3 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 7|
|June 17||8 p.m.||ESPN||Game 8|
|June 18||8 p.m.||ESPN||Game 9|
|June 19||8 p.m.||ESPN||Game 10|
|June 20||3 p.m.||ESPNU||Game 11|
|June 20||8 p.m.||ESPN||Game 12|
|June 21||3 p.m.||ESPN2||Game 13 (if necessary)|
|June 21||8 p.m.||ESPN||Game 14 (if necessary)|
|June 23||8 p.m.||ESPN||CWS Finals: Game 1|
|June 24||8 p.m.||ESPN||CWS Finals: Game 2|
|June 25||8 p.m.||ESPN||CWS Finals: Game 3 (if necessary)|
An updated bracket for the 2014 College World Series can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.
Below are predictions for the first round of games, played on June 14 and June 15.
UC Irvine vs. Texas
UC Irvine has the most losses of any team in this tournament with 23, but don't let that stop you from picking them to surprise in Omaha. The Anteaters possess one of the top pitchers of the remaining eight teams, right-hander Andrew Morales.
Morales needed 112 pitches to shut out Oklahoma State in the deciding game of the super regionals, and he has been brilliant through the entire postseason. With multiple days of rest between the game against the Cowboys and this game against Texas, Morales will likely be on the bump yet again.
The Longhorns are a quality team with strong pitching and timely hitting, but Morales has been on a roll of late. Fatigue might eventually catch up to him, though. Morales won't be able to go the full nine innings this time around, but I think he'll go seven innings and throw about 85 pitches before being yanked.
Texas won't be able to push any more than two runs across the plate against him.
Prediction: UC Irvine 4, Texas 2
Louisville vs. Vanderbilt
Louisville hasn't had a ton of success in Omaha since 2007. Ironically, 2007 was also the first time the program reached the College World Series. Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal wrote about their issues at this level:
It's the program's third appearance on college baseball's biggest stage — all since 2007 — and the Cards (50-15) hope the third time is the charm. They went a combined 1-4 in their previous two visits to Omaha, even after going undefeated in the NCAA Tournament buildup to last year's CWS.
The previous two years can be chalked up to inexperience, as nobody on the team knew what to expect. Given the fact that the Cardinals are returning from last year's disappointment, however, I expect a rebound.
In a tournament often dominated by pitching, Louisville has the arms to succeed. Nick Burdi is one that stands out in particular. The right-hander was drafted No. 46 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2014 MLB draft, and he can touch 100 mph on the gun. If Louisville has a lead late, look for Burdi to come in and make quick work of the hitters.
Vanderbilt can hit, but it'll be difficult to touch up the Cardinals staff.
Prediction: Louisville 3, Vanderbilt 1
Texas Tech vs. TCU
It took a thrilling 6-5 win over Pepperdine for TCU to reach the College World Series, and NCAA Baseball's official Twitter account captured a few images of the emotional Game 3:
Down 5-4 in the top of the ninth, the Horned Frogs had no choice but to start a rally if they wanted to advance. That's just what they did, as they scored two runs and then recorded two strikeouts in the bottom of the frame to seal the win.
TCU is no stranger to playing in close games. The 22-inning affair against Sam Houston State tired out the team's pitching staff, but that didn't stop the Horned Frogs from defeating Sam Houston State in the regionals and moving on to the supers.
This team is resilient and won't go down easily. That makes them somewhat of a favorite, in my opinion. They'll make noise in the tournament.
Prediction: TCU 5, Texas Tech 3
Virginia vs. Ole Miss
After dropping Game 1 of the supers to Maryland, the Virginia Cavaliers stormed back to take Games 2 and 3 to advance. The Cavs are the highest national seed remaining, and they proved why they deserve that honor in those two games.
As the preseason No. 1, the Cavs had immense pressure on them heading into the year. They dropped to No. 3 in the country following a shaky finish to the regular season, but head coach Brian O'Connor still thinks they have what it takes to win this tournament, via Tom Robinson of The Virginian-Pilot:
"I think this is a team that's built to win in Omaha. I think in all phases of the game, this team is pretty special. I'm excited to see them go out to Omaha and compete for the national championship."
The first team in the way of that championship is Ole Miss. A strong team in its own right, Ole Miss will give Virginia some problems if they can string together a few hits in the opening frames. If not, this one will be all Virginia.
Prediction: Virginia 3, Ole Miss 1