The 2014 College World Series begins this weekend, as baseball’s eight best teams have advanced past the super regionals on to Omaha, Nebraska.
The double-elimination tournament features two groups of four teams, with the winner of each group advancing to the College World Series beginning on June 23.
The first quartet will begin its championship quest on Saturday, while the second group will do the same on Sunday. Here's a preview of Sunday’s action.
Texas Tech (45-19) vs. TCU (47-16), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Texas Tech—making its first College World Series appearance in program history—needed just two runs to sweep College of Charleston and win its first-ever super regional, earning a pair of 1-0 victories. According to the school’s athletic department, the Red Raiders are the only team in super regional history to advance in that manner.
Pitching has been the story of the tournament for Texas Tech, as the team has given up just four runs in six games, including three consecutive shutouts. Led by freshman Dylan Dusek—who is 8-0 on the year with a 1.94 ERA—and senior Jonny Drozd out of the bullpen (7-0, 2.00 ERA in 72 innings), the offense hasn’t had to score many runs thus far.
Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock had this to say about his team advancing to Omaha, per the Texas Tech website: “Right now I don't know if it's really sunk in. I'm sure when I get home this evening I'm sure it will hit me. I just really appreciate these guys. I mean, they're a special group."
TCU is making its second trip to the College World Series and is one of only two national seeds left in the tournament (Virginia). Incredibly, the Horned Frogs have won 32 of their last 36 games, although it took a ninth-inning rally to advance past the supers.
In the deciding Game 3 against Pepperdine, TCU found itself down 5-4 heading into the final frame. But the team refused to lose, scoring the tying run off Dylan Fitzgerald’s double and the go-ahead run with Kyle Bacak’s suicide squeeze bunt.
But for first baseman Kevin Cron, the goal isn’t just to reach the College World Series. It’s about winning a title, per TCU360.com’s Jordan Ray: “We took some time to celebrate. Ever since then, it’s been about getting back to work…just really focusing on the next task at hand and that’s winning a national championship.”
Going up against a strong pitching unit, the Horned Frogs will need to bring the bats.
TCU is battle-tested. The team won a difficult Big 12 tournament and has won four games by one run in the regional and super regional rounds. But Texas Tech’s pitching has been too dominant to ignore. Expect the Red Raiders to quiet the Horned Frogs’ bats in Game 1.
Game 1 Final Score: Texas Tech 3, TCU 1
Virginia (49-14) vs. Ole Miss (46-19), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Virginia had high expectations before the season began, and it hasn't disappointed. The highest national seed remaining, the Cavaliers began the year as the preseason No. 1 and finished the regular season ranked No. 3.
The team is making its third College World Series appearance and hopes to improve on its third-place finish in 2011. The Cavaliers have shown consistency and resiliency all year and thus should be the favorite to win the national championship.
After losing Game 1 to Maryland in the supers, Virginia responded by scoring 18 runs to win the next two games and advance to Omaha.
The team has shown incredible balance all tournament, which has helped make them such a difficult out. With the exception of the Maryland loss, the Cavaliers have not allowed more than three runs in any game. They have also scored early and often offensively, totaling 44 runs through six games.
But like Virginia, Mississippi is also extremely well-rounded. Making their fifth trip to Omaha—but first since 1972—the Rebels have proven they can win in a variety of ways. The team suffered a 9-5 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in Game 1 of the super regional but outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns 15-6 to win Game 2 and Game 3.
Ole Miss can also win close with great pitching and timely hitting. In the regional, the team defeated Washington with a pair of one-run victories that reiterated the fact that they aren’t just an offensive team. No matter what situation the Rebels find themselves in going forward, they know they've been in a similar game before.
This should be a terrific series between two great teams that can win both offensively and on the mound. Both schools advanced past the supers with two consecutive victories after losing Game 1. Expect the Cavaliers to pitch well and the Rebels to struggle containing Virginia’s offense.
Game 1 Final Score: Virginia 6, Ole Miss 2
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