The 2014 College World Series has commenced, as UC Irvine kicked things off with a 3-1 victory over Texas. There is still one contest to be played in the opening slate of games with Louisville taking on Vanderbilt, but Sunday's showdowns also offer some compelling matchups.
To start Sunday, Texas Tech hopes to knock off intrastate adversary and Big 12 tournament champion TCU. Both Lone Star State programs will receive enthusiastic support from the impassioned crowds, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Stefan Stevenson:
Virginia has found its form at the perfect time as the highest overall seed remaining. The Cavaliers are representing a deep ACC after being ousted in their conference tourney and will tangle with Ole Miss in the night game.
These openers will determine how the bracket shakes out moving forward in this double-elimination format. Then a best-of-three format will decide which program emerges with the title of NCAA Division I Baseball champion in Omaha, Nebraska.
Listed below is a complete look at the schedule for the rest of the College World Series, along with predictions as to how Sunday's action will play out.
Note: For the complete interactive bracket, visit NCAA.com.
|June 14||3 p.m.||ESPN2||UC Irvine 3, Texas 1|
|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)|
Texas Tech (45-19) vs. TCU (47-16)
The Red Raiders will be underdogs, but they should come out playing a bit looser since they'll be expected to be halfway to being knocked out of the CWS. Coach Tim Tadlock's team edged the College of Charleston in a super-regional clash, blanking them 1-0 en route to a sweep.
TCU may have been the top seed in the regionals, yet the Horned Frogs have to feel fortunate just to have gotten this far.
Pepperdine gave TCU all it could handle in a thrilling super-regional showcase, with each of the three games being decided by one run. That should actually bode well, as the Horned Frogs have to fight for their CWS lives, because they've built some unique resilience and had players step up in pressure-packed situations.
When these two teams met three times in the regular season, Texas Tech took the final two meetings by 10 runs apiece after losing 9-0 in the first encounter. Zach Duncan of the Times Record News points out a key detail as Red Raiders hurler Chris Sadberry prepares to take the hill:
Holliday's Chris Sadberry will get start for Texas Tech Sunday vs. TCU in CWS. He allowed 1 run in 5 IP in 12-2 win vs TCU earlier in yr.— Zach Duncan (@zduncansports) June 13, 2014
It's difficult to figure out just what will happen given how polarizing the previous outcomes have been, though Sadberry's previous success figures to give Texas Tech an edge.
With the heightened stakes and competitive tensions flowing, look for this one to be closer. Using a slim margin of victory as a major stipulation, it's hard to go against the Horned Frogs based on the momentum they've generated from the hard-fought Pepperdine series.
TCU will get back at Sadberry, and the fact that the Red Raiders have scored 13 runs in their past six games is reason enough to shy away from picking them.
Prediction: TCU 4, Texas Tech 2
Virginia (49-14) vs. Ole Miss (46-19)
Ole Miss will have its work cut out trying to combat a balanced Virginia team that has a 2.31 ERA and a high-octane lineup. The Cavaliers boast a CWS-best .421 team slugging percentage, but to be balanced, their opponent brings plenty of wood to the plate, too, averaging 6.1 runs per game.
Matching up with such terse competition in the ACC all season has evidently prepared Virginia well enough to advance to Omaha. Its run shouldn't stop there, thanks especially to superior pitching.
It's been more than four decades since the Rebels were last in the College World Series. Meanwhile, experience—or lack thereof—is an emerging theme in Omaha that works to Virgina's advantage, per GoCreighton.com's Rob Anderson:
The only teams still in contention for a CWS title to have ever won a game at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha are Virginia & Vanderbilt. Both w/ 2.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) June 8, 2014
After falling short of expectations as the preseason No. 1, this is a chance for the Cavaliers to show they can fulfill their promise on the grandest college baseball stage. Coach Brian O'Connor has admired the way his players have handled having the target on their back from the dawn of the season, per the Omaha World-Herald's Steven Pivovar:
Not many teams get the opportunity to start the season as the No. 1 team in the country and then put yourself in a position where you're one game away from Omaha. I'm just so proud of this team because I think they handled the expectations to the season about as good as any club can.
There shouldn't be any added weight to the gaudy expectations since Virginia has constantly had to deal with the hype and is only now realizing its potential and piecing everything together.
Who will win the College World Series?
Plus, the Cavaliers were in danger of being booted against conference foe Maryland in the super regional, losing the first game 5-4 before winning the next two by a combined score of 18-5. This club is hot and should be the favorite to win the program's maiden national championship.
As for what would lie ahead thereafter, Virginia would have to take on TCU, presuming these predictions play out properly. The Horned Frogs are a gritty bunch but won't offer enough resistance to topple the Cavs. There is a great chance that the close call against the Terrapins will prove to be the wake-up call Virginia needed to catapult forward en route to a CWS title.
With regard to the losers' bracket, an intriguing encounter between Ole Miss and Texas Tech would take place. The Rebels would have to find a way to produce against the Red Raiders' sound defense but could still salvage a strong trip to Omaha by pulling through for a win.
Prediction: Virginia 7, Ole Miss 5