The stage is set for the 2015 NCAA baseball tournament, with 16 enticing regionals left to be played before deciding who moves on to the Super Regionals.
It's no simple task even getting to this point. Teams must either earn their way in through automatic seeds or prove themselves worthy to the selection committee as one of the best 64 clubs in the nation. But getting here is only the start, as it takes incredible fight and determination to advance to the College World Series.
Let's take a look at all of the opening-round matchups for Friday.
NCAA Baseball Regionals Schedule: Friday, May 29
|12 p.m.||Auburn vs. Charleston||ESPN3|
|1 p.m.||Oral Roberts vs. Arkansas||ESPN3|
|1 p.m.||Columbia vs. East Carolina||ESPN3|
|1 p.m.||South Florida vs. Florida Atlantic||ESPN3|
|1 p.m.||California vs. Coastal Carolina||ESPN3|
|1 p.m.||Wright State vs. Notre Dame||ESPN3|
|2 p.m.||Oregon vs. Iowa||ESPN3|
|2 p.m.||Michigan vs. Bradley||ESPN3|
|2:30 p.m.||Texas vs. Oregon State||ESPN3|
|3 p.m.||Indiana vs. Radford||ESPN3|
|3:30 p.m.||Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Rice||ESPN3|
|3:30 p.m.||Stony Brook vs. N.C. State||ESPN3|
|4 p.m.||Lehigh vs. LSU||ESPN3|
|6 p.m.||Virginia vs. USC||ESPN3|
|6 p.m.||Mercer vs. Florida State||ESPN3|
|6 p.m.||Clemson vs. Arizona State||ESPN3|
|6 p.m.||Morehead State vs. Louisville||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||Maryland vs. Ole Miss||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||St. John's vs. Oklahoma State||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||Canisius vs. Missouri State||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||FIU vs. Miami||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||VCU vs. Dallas Baptist||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||Florida A&M vs. Florida||ESPN3|
|7 p.m.||Texas Southern vs. Texas A&M||ESPN3|
|8 p.m.||Tulane vs. UNC-Wilmington||ESPN3|
|8 p.m.||Houston Baptist vs. Houston||ESPN3|
|8 p.m.||Sacred Heart vs. TCU||ESPN3|
|8 p.m.||Ohio vs. Illinois||ESPN3|
|8 p.m.||Lipscomb vs. Vanderbilt||ESPN3|
|10 p.m.||San Diego State vs. UC Santa Barbara||ESPN3|
|10 p.m.||Pepperdine vs. CSU Fullerton||ESPN3|
|11:05 p.m.||CSU Bakersfield vs. UCLA||ESPNU|
Full tournament bracket at NCAA.com.
Every game will be available at WatchESPN.
CSU Bakersfield vs. UCLA
After locking up the top overall seed in the tournament, the UCLA Bruins will begin their quest for a second national title in three years by hosting CSU Bakersfield Friday night.
In between their 2013 title and this season, the Bruins underwent some serious struggles in failing to make the NCAA field last season. But this year has brought an expected revival, finishing 42-14 on the season and edging LSU for the top national seed.
No top overall seed has won the tournament since Miami did it in 1999, but UCLA presents a strong case to end that drought. The Bruins led the NCAA in ERA and WHIP, boasting arguably the best pitching staff in the nation with a dominant closer in David Berg to rely on in late-game situations.
CSU Bakersfield will enter the tourney confident after toppling Seattle for the WAC tournament title and the automatic bid. But it took rallying from a 4-1 eighth-inning deficit just to get past that game and into the field, and the Roadrunners' 36-22-1 record in an inferior conference doesn't present any worrying signs for the Bruins.
Notching a national seed—much less No. 1 overall—is no easy task, but every team still enters the regionals 0-0. Now, UCLA must prove itself again when it matters most.
Ole Miss vs. Maryland
Two power-conference standouts from the East will make the long trek to California, as Ole Miss and Maryland are set for a battle in the other half of UCLA's regional.
With plenty of destinations nearer to them, the selection committee didn't do any favors to the Terrapins or the Rebels in sending them across the country to fight for their tournament lives. It does seem that Ole Miss is at least embracing the challenge, as its team Twitter account demonstrated:
Although the chips are stacked against them, the third-seeded Terrapins should come in very confident of their chances to get past this draw. That's what they did last season, emerging to win the Columbia, South Carolina, Regional by winning three straight games.
If second-seeded Ole Miss is going to keep Maryland from winning their fourth straight regional game, getting Connor Cloyd back into the lineup will be crucial. He won a lineup spot by leading the team in batting average and on-base percentage, but he hasn't played since picking up an injury early in May.
Per The Clarion-Ledger's Riley Blevins, the Rebels average nearly six runs per contest with Cloyd and just 4.13 runs without him. In order to hit their way past a Maryland pitching staff that gave up an average of two runs per game in the Big Ten tournament, Cloyd and the rest of the Rebels bats will need to be effective.