Following three win-or-go-home games in the Super Regionals on Monday, the 2014 College World Series field is set. There have been some upsets along the way, but with five No. 1 seeds still remaining, the powerhouse teams are still going to be the story in Omaha.
In addition to the caliber of teams still playing, there is plenty of star power on display. There are eight players who were taken on Day 1 of the 2014 MLB draft still playing this week, Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Beede being the highest draftee (14th overall to San Francisco).
With the MLB draft being more popular than ever, it gives the College World Series extra exposure so casual fans can follow what is always a fun, exciting event. Here is a look at the bracket and schedule for Omaha, as well as some final predictions.
|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 up-to-date bracket for the 2014 College World Series can be found at NCAA.com by clicking here.
UC Irvine Will Play Spoiler Early
The Anteaters didn't enter the College World Series with a lot of fanfare following a 35-22 regular season and being the No. 3 seed in their regional, behind Oregon State and UNLV, but quality pitching and timely hitting has got the program to Omaha for the first time since 2007.
Right-hander Andrew Morales, who was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, is one of the best pitchers in college baseball. He's got an incredible 136-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 1.53 ERA in 129.2 innings and shut out top-seeded Oklahoma State in a complete-game win to send UC Irvine to Omaha.
There's also power in the lineup, which is rare in college baseball but is important in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. Taylor Sparks, a second-round pick by the Cincinnati Reds, slugged over .500 with 29 extra-base hits. Connor Spencer had 15 doubles and five triples.
This team is going to make some noise early in the College World Series, though it lacks pitchers who miss enough bats to take down more potent offensive clubs later like Virginia, Vanderbilt and Mississippi.
Matchup To Watch: Virginia vs. Mississippi
When the best matchup of the College World Series happens right out of the gate, there's nowhere to go but down. The good news is Virginia and Mississippi are so good and talented that it's not a detriment to say the other games won't live up to this battle.
Virginia is the most talented team in college baseball and has started playing like it, winning consecutive games against Maryland in the Super Regionals to get here. Mississippi is a rarity in today's college game with a potent, powerful offense that can beat an opponent into submission.
The Rebels hit .304 during the regular season and have outhomered their opponents 42-21. The Cavaliers aren't slouches in the offensive category, hitting .281 as a team with 33 home runs, but they are built on a pitching staff that had a 2.31 ERA.
Something will give, one way or the other, when the Rebels and Cavaliers match up on Sunday. It's fitting that this will be the final game of the weekend, giving it a true main event feeling.
Virginia Will Win the 2014 College World Series
It's not risky to predict a team that started the year ranked No. 1 in Baseball America's preseason Top 25, but Virginia held that distinction for a reason and, after a lull late in the year, has gotten better as the tournament has gone on.
As Aaron Fitt of Baseball America wrote after the Cavaliers advanced to the College World Series, they made it look easy in two win-or-go-home games against Maryland in the Super Regionals.
After pounding out 17 hits in Sunday’s 7-3 win, the Cavaliers rode a wave of confidence into Monday’s game and jumped out to an early lead they would not relinquish. Kenny Towns—an unsung stalwart in Virginia’s star-laden junior class—smacked a two-run triple off the left-field wall to cap a three-run first inning, and Towns capped another three-run rally in the third with a two-run single up the middle. That made it 6-0, and Maryland never really threatened after that against Josh Sborz.
Nothing the Cavaliers have done this year should change the perception that they are the best team in college baseball. In terms of pro prospects, they just had six players drafted in the first eight rounds of the draft and will send at least one more early in round one next year (left-hander Nathan Kirby).
Virginia has a difficult path to the championship with No. 1 seeds Mississippi and TCU also on that side of the bracket, as well as No. 2 seed Texas Tech. But this is a battle-tested group that steps up when the odds are stacked against them.
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