NCAA Super Regionals 2014: Highlighting Top Storylines for Saturday's Action

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJune 6, 2014

Virginia's Nick Howard prepares to pitch during the ninth inning of an NCAA college baseball regional tournament game against Arkansas in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Pat Jarrett)
Pat Jarrett/Associated Press

After the thrilling double-elimination regionals, only 16 teams remain standing—each coveting a spot in the 2014 College World Series.

Eight of those teams will be facing off on Saturday, and a bevy of talent will be on display across the nation.

As these teams prepare to take the field for Game 1 of their best-of-three series, there will be plenty of developing storylines to follow.

Let's take a look at a few of the more intriguing narratives to watch for during the four-game slate on Saturday.

Will Virginia Continue to Roll?

The Virginia Cavaliers are the highest-remaining national seed in the tournament—No. 3 in the nation. The team also boasts the third-lowest total ERA at just 2.29.

However, Virginia is set to face Maryland on Saturday. In these team's only meeting this season, the Terrapins emerged victorious by a score of 7-6 in the ACC Tournament.

Both teams feature strong pitching, and we can expect a potentially low-scoring game. Virginia is no stranger to these situations, going 14-6 in games decided by one run.

Speaking of pitching, one name to watch during this contest is Virginia closer Nick Howard, who was recently selected 19th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2014 MLB draft.

Lance McAlister of ESPN 1530 gives some insight to Howard's game:

Even with some great pitching, Virginia won't have it easy against Maryland. Not only did the Terps defeat the Cavaliers this season, but they are playing at a blistering pace, getting through the regionals unscathed with a 3-0 record to advance to the Super Regionals for the first time since 1971.

The Cavaliers may be the top-ranked team remaining, but expect Maryland to push them to the limits throughout this series.

Battle of the Bats in Louisiana

Are you a fan of offense?

If your answer is yes, the showdown between Louisiana-Lafayette and Ole Miss won't disappoint.

The Ragin' Cajuns enter the Super Regionals as the tournament's top hitting team, boasting a team batting average of .319—good for second in the nation. The team leads the NCAA in runs (515), slugging percentage (.497) and triples (31), and is second in the nation in doubles (134) and home runs (66).

Slugger Caleb Adams was instrumental in moving his team through the regionals, and he showed his relentless spirit on Twitter:

That's a lot of offense, but it won't be a one-team show.

With great bats themselves, Ole Miss has been one of the better SEC teams at the plate this season. The Rebels are third in the conference in batting average (.304) and runs (376), and fourth in home runs (39).

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco spoke of the challenge ahead with The Clarion-Ledger, via Creg Stephenson of GulfLive.com:

Obviously a great offense that does it in a lot of different ways from power to speed to sac bunts. But the other parts of their game—they defend it, fielding .978 as a team. They got three aces on the mound. They pitch well. Big challenge playing them, and playing them down there.

It's safe to say that we'll see plenty of fireworks in this one.

Fort Worth Pitching Duel

TCU and Pepperdine face off in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday, boasting two of the nation's most elite pitching rotations.

The Horned Frogs top the nation with a 2.14 ERA thanks to the efforts of a tremendous four-man rotation.

Preston Morrison has been stellar this season with a 1.24 ERA to go along with a 9-3 record. Tyler Alexander isn't too far behind, boasting a 1.94 ERA and 10-3 record. Brandon Finnegan, the first-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, has a 2.07 ERA and 8-3 record. Rounding out the quartet is Jordan Kipper's 3.01 ERA and 8-2 record.

TCU Baseball was first to congratulate Finnegan on his early draft selection:

Pepperdine is no slouch on then mound either.

Corey Miller has been the team's workhorse this season, earning a 1.75 ERA and 9-4 record over 113 innings pitched. Aaron Brown holds a 2.07 ERA and impressive 12-1 record, while Matt Maurer and Jackson McClelland have ERAs of 3.18 and 3.53, respectively.

Altogether, Pepperdine has a 2.52 ERA as a team—good for 10th in the nation.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle has been impressed with what he's seen from the Waves, according to an interview with Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram:

[Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez has] done a great job. I can tell you this, they're really good. I've been watching a lot of video on them and I'm impressed. Their pitching is really strong.

They have a really good combination of veteran senior players with experience and some really, really good freshman players. They're a good team and they're really playing well right now.

It will be a treat to watch these two teams grind it out during Saturday's Game 1.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.