NCAA Baseball Regional 2014: Top Matchups to Watch on Upcoming Schedule

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2014

Feb 25, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA;  Florida State Seminoles pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston (44) come back into the dugout after he batted during the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It's pretty rare that top seeds lose their opening games in the regionals at the NCAA tournament. Pretty rare, indeed. So the fact that we've already witnessed three No. 1 seeds lose at this year's tournament and face elimination is a pretty huge shocker.

But that's baseball, folks, and part of what makes college baseball in particular so much fun.

Now, these teams will be fighting for their postseason lives, and while it's added pressure for them, it's added entertainment for the rest of us as we tune in to see if they can stay alive. 

Below, you'll find three matchups in the regionals you won't want to miss. Shockingly, they all include top seeds. 

No. 1 Florida vs. No. 3 North Carolina

John Raoux/Associated Press

Both of these proud programs are just a loss away from elimination, setting up a truly intriguing loser's bracket matchup. 

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Florida surprisingly fell to College of Charleston 3-2 after the underdogs scored three runs in the top of the first and held on for dear life after that. North Carolina, meanwhile, gave up six runs in the bottom of the fourth and couldn't solve Long Beach State pitcher Andrew Rohrbach, losing 6-1.

This one should be a pitching battle, as neither one of these teams is particularly threatening at the dish. Florida led the SEC in saves (20) and is an excellent defensive team, while North Carolina has gotten strong starting pitching and has a steady bullpen. 

To stave off elimination, each team will need a star to step up and lead the way. Look for Florida catcher Taylor Gushue (.323, 49 RBI in the regular season) to keep Florida alive.

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Alabama

Phil Sears/Associated Press

Jameis Winston may have led the Seminoles to a national championship in football, but he and his baseball brethren are now a loss away from elimination. And the going won't get easier, as they'll have the battled-tested Crimson Tide to deal with. 

Florida State didn't just lose to Georgia Southern, it was blown out 7-0. Georgia Southern's Sam Howard pitched a complete-game two-hitter and struck out 10 Seminoles. And afterward, Florida State manager Sam Martin simply admitted to Bob Ferrante of The Palm Beach Post”We were totally dominated by Sam Howard, who did a beautiful job."

As Ferrante noted, a loss in the regionals isn't exactly commonplace for the Seminoles.

"FSU (43-16) had won 19 consecutive regional games, a streak that dated to a loss to Bucknell in the 2008 regional in Tallahassee. The Seminoles rallied to win the regional that year, and they will have to do the same again now if they are going to reach the super regionals."

Standing in their path will be Alabama, another team that was blanked in the runs column, as Kennesaw State beat the Seminoles 1-0.

If Alabama is going to beat Florida State, it will need to wake its bats up and rely on the long ball. The Crimson Tide blasted 40 home runs this season, second in the SEC and 17th in the nation, so small ball isn't exactly their forte.

For Florida State, DJ Stewart and John Nogowski must help to revitalize the offense. The Seminoles have strong pitching, but facing a dangerous Alabama lineup, they can't expect to simply shut out the Crimson Tide. This is an intriguing matchup, but the Seminoles should advance.

No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 3 San Diego State

Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

Louisiana-Lafayette is the third of the No. 1 seeds to lose and face elimination. But as Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com wrote, the loss to Jackson State was far more surprising than most:

Jackson State defeated the Ragin' Cajuns, the unanimous No. 1 team in college baseball, in a 1-0 stunner that will rank with the biggest upsets in recent college baseball history.

If the NCAA baseball tournament was seeded, Jackson State would have ranked last out of 64 teams. The Tigers, after all, had a losing record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and were just 31-23 overall. They needed to win four games in the SWAC tournament just to get here.

But Jackson State was nothing if not undaunted. They strutted into the sellout stadium and turned The Tigue on its ear. They played rock-solid defense, pitched their brains out and refused to fold in the teeth of the throaty throng of 3,581 fans.

Can Louisiana-Lafayette recover from that shocker? Can it recover after losing to a team that had just won its first NCAA tournament game ever? Can it recover after being shut out for the first time all season? 

The Ragin' Cajuns will have to, because San Diego State won't roll over for them. Far from it. But the Ragin' Cajuns are the top team in the country for a reason, and they'll be expected to reverse course in their second game. 

Even if they never imagined they would be in this position in the first place.


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