The road to Omaha, Nebraska, isn't an easy one. After a grueling regular season, double-elimination regional play and best-of-three super regional action, eight surviving teams are set to compete in the 2014 College World Series.
Seven new teams are on display this year, as Louisville is the sole returning team from one season ago. Every squad is different—some feature stellar pitching, and others rely on offensive firepower.
That diversity only adds to the impending intensity and drama set to take place over the weekend.
As each team looks to get started with a big win, let's break down the full schedule, look at the updated bracket and predict the outcome for each of the first four contests.
|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)|
The complete interactive College World Series bracket can be viewed at NCAA.com.
UC Irvine vs. Texas
Many would consider UC Irvine a Cinderella team in this year's tournament. However, this is the same team that beat former No. 1 Oregon State in Oregon and followed that up with a sweep of Oklahoma State in the super regionals.
Brendan C. Hall of ESPN has high hopes for this squad going forward:
UC Irvine is one of the nation's top pitching teams, and right-hander Andrew Morales is a big reason for that. He pitched a five-hit shutout to advance the team to the College World Series and should be taking the mound once more on Saturday.
If he can go the majority of the distance, the Longhorns may not have enough firepower to keep up with the Anteaters.
We'll have an upset on our hands early.
UC Irvine 4, Texas 1
Louisville vs. Vanderbilt
Here's a look at two teams featuring plenty of similarities.
Both Louisville and Vanderbilt are within the nation's top 25 pitching teams. The Commodores are ranked 19th with a 2.75 ERA, and the Cardinals are 21st with a 2.78 ERA. In terms of offense, Louisville holds a .287 team batting average, while Vanderbilt bats .282.
Needless to say, we could be in for a close one here.
Tyler Beede will likely get the nod for Vanderbilt, while Kyle Funkhouser will bring his 1.73 ERA to the mound for Louisville.
This one will come down to which pitcher falters early. Beede hasn't been overly consistent this season, so he's likely to be the victim here.
After all, Louisville's been unbeatable this year when its bats get going, according to a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info:
Louisville 5, Vanderbilt 3
Texas Tech vs. TCU
This will be a tough one for Texas Tech.
Not only does TCU feature an Omaha-friendly offense, but the team has the nation's best pitching rotation, boasting a combined 2.19 ERA.
Pitching is what got TCU to this point. Here's a look at the strike that got the Horned Frogs into the College World Series, courtesy of Pat Doney of NBC:
The Omaha-friendly offense this team features is due to the Horned Frogs' ability to play small ball.
In a pitcher-friendly TD Ameritrade Park, TCU's ability to manufacture runs by accumulating stolen bases to give its solid pitching rotation some cushion will go a long way.
This game will likely turn into a pitching duel, as Texas Tech features a fine rotation of its own. However, this contest is simply set up perfectly for a TCU team that thrives on close wins.
TCU 3, Texas Tech 2
Virginia vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss ended a 42-year College World Series drought by defeating Louisiana-Lafayette in the super regionals. That's great news for the Rebels; however, it also comes with the price of facing the extremely well-rounded Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia features a very balanced team. The Cavaliers are ranked fifth in the nation with a team ERA of 2.31 and are no slouches offensively, holding a team batting average of .281.
The Cavaliers had a rather shaky finish to the regular season, but the team looked solid once again during regional and super regional action.
But this one's not going to be easy for Virginia.
Ole Miss has the capability of getting hot at times. The team has a solid pitching rotation, holding an ERA of just 2.72, but also bats .303. These traits showed up in the team's recent 10-4 rout of the Ragin Cajuns.
The Rebels have plenty of momentum heading into this contest, and that could certainly be the difference-maker in this one.
If the Rebels can get hot early in the game, we could be looking at a big upset here.
Ole Miss 5, Virginia 3