The Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic makes its return to Dodger Stadium Sunday and features past College World Series champions and surefire contenders for this year's crown.
Defending champion and No. 1 in the Baseball America preseason Top 25 Vanderbilt will make the trip to the spectacle and clash with TCU. After, 2013 champions UCLA will meet USC in a rivalry showdown that comes close to matching the intensity of the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants feud.
It's only fitting that a major staple of the college baseball season makes its triumphant return after two years. The 2013 iteration took place at Jackie Robinson Stadium before the event was missing in action last year.
Below is everything observers need to know about the spectacle.
2015 Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic
When: Sunday, March 8, at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
TV: Pac-12 Network (USC vs. UCLA)
Game 1: TCU vs. Vanderbilt, 11:45 a.m. PT
Game 2: USC vs. UCLA, 3:30 p.m. PT
Preceding Sunday’s spectacle is a warm-up round of sorts as each of the four teams rotate opponents at Dedeaux Field. Friday, the Trojans host the Horned Frogs and the Commodores encounter the Bruins before Saturday's slate, where the Trojans take on the Commodores and the Horned Frogs take on UCLA.
Sunday is the main event, though.
The opener may not come with the hype of a USC-UCLA encounter, but the play on the field will come close.
Much of the attention in the TCU-Vanderbilt showdown goes to the latter, and rightfully so given last year's campaign. But the Horned Frogs trot out just as much elite talent, headlined by pitcher Riley Ferrell.
As Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com notes, Ferrell set a record recently thanks to yet another strong performance:
For TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, Ferrell's presence is something that gives the roster a certain peace of mind, even on big stages, as captured by GoFrogs.com:
It just gives you a supreme confidence. I've been on teams where you don't have that guy and everybody doubts. When you'd score in the late innings to go up and you'd be thinking, `how are we going to get those last three outs.' (Now) we're pretty confident that we're going to have some success at the end of the game.
The 3-1 outcome wasn't just any regular win, either, considering it came against No. 10 Rice behind two runs by center fielder Cody Jones. That stunning balance will be put to the test, though, as Vanderbilt's thrilling 9-8 victory against Evansville in 12 frames showcases the Commodores' balance at the plate and composure beneath the spotlight.
Still, the attention naturally gravitates toward Sunday's late game.
With only one loss on record this year, UCLA looks every bit as dominant as it was in 2013. Thank Chris Keck for that, one of the nation's most explosive players at the plate with a team-high five home runs and 20 RBI.
USC can be just as potent in the batter's box, though, even if a recent 3-2 defeat at the hands of Santa Barbara doesn't suggest it. Glance before that loss, though, and see a series sweep of Fordham as the Trojans piled on 17 runs over the course of three games.
For infielder Dante Flores, the series sweep is an indication that this year's team is much better than previous iterations.
Flores said, per Rivals.com's Max Meyer:
We are more mature this year. Last year, we won a couple games in extra innings and we were coming back. This season it's been different. We've been coming right out of the gate. We're taking extra bags. We're playing all aspects of the game better this year.
With two rivals that are as explosive as it gets at the plate set to headline the return of the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic, college baseball seems set to steal the spotlight from the NFL and other spectacles for a weekend.
For the teams involved, that doesn't matter—the season-long repercussions of the outcomes do.