As two teams fight to fast-track their way through the 2015 College World Series bracket, another pair will spend Monday fending off elimination.
Virginia and Florida kicked off the double-elimination tournament with victories, setting up a matchup that will allow the winner to sit back for three days as the pool dwindles. Whichever team emerges victorious will be one victory away from the College World Series finals, and it'll have two chances to claim the spot.
Meanwhile, either Arkansas or Miami will go home following their elimination bout. Including this contest, either school will need three straight victories to earn a spot in the best-of-three championship series.
Let's take a closer look at both of Monday's scheduled matchups.
|2015 College World Series: Monday Schedule|
|3 p.m.||Arkansas||Miami (FL)||ESPN2||Losers (Elimination Game)|
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Virginia vs. Florida
Heading into a colossal showdown with Miami's boisterous offense, Florida knew it would need some offensive fireworks to avoid defeat. Not only did the Gators pitching rise to the occasion, but their bats also exploded during a 15-3 stomping.
The Gators broke away with an 11-run fourth inning, giving them a share of CWS history, according to NCAA Baseball's Twitter page:
Partaking in the outburst, catcher JJ Schwarz remained hot with two hits and a walk, scoring and driving in two runs apiece. The freshman is now hitting .335/.397/.649 on the season, a sensational slash line that pales in comparison to his tournament accolades. SB Nation's Alligator Army relayed his recent dominance:
After annihilating its top competition from the bracket's quadrant, Florida now boasts a 10-game winning streak, during which it has outscored opponents 98-21. A popular choice entering the tournament, the Gators look poised to run the gauntlet.
Last year's runner-up, Virginia, is now a monumental underdog. A No. 3 regional seed that finished the season outside D1Baseball.com's top 25, Virginia now has six straight victories. Unlike the Gators, the Cavaliers have tallied a plus-11 run differential over that stretch.
Virginia clawed to a 5-3 victory over Arkansas, scoring the deciding two runs in the final two frames. The team continued to attack with five stolen bases, three from shortstop Daniel Pinero. Although starting pitcher Connor Jones issued just two strikeouts through six innings, he limited the damage by allowing three of 10 baserunners to score.
"That ballgame is kind of how we played the last couple weeks," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor told the Associated Press' Eric Olson. "Connor Jones certainly didn't have his best stuff, but he grinded. Our plan coming into this World Series was to be very aggressive and take the fight to the other team, and we did that from an offensive standpoint."
All the gritting and grinding in the world, however, won't give the Cavaliers the win over the Gators. Holding the fort down well enough won't suffice against a club hitting .300/.385/.454.
Arkansas vs. Miami (FL)
Leading the nation in runs scored, the Hurricanes are usually the ones to hit their opponents into submission. Instead, the Gators pummeled them while they converted 14 baserunners into only three runs.
Either way the Florida vs. Miami matchup unfolded, an NCAA powerhouse was going to get its back pushed against the wall. But nobody could have expected Miami to fall in such decisive fashion, forcing the squad to shake off a nightmarish inning with no more margin for error.
The last time Miami lost, it bounced back from a shutout against Columbia to decimate the same adversary for 21 runs the next day. An offense hitting .311 with a .421 on-base percentage doesn't stay down for long.
Arkansas, an underdog with more pop than Virginia, goes from the small-ball Cavaliers to a team with eight regulars sporting on-base percentages above .400. Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn announced who draws the unenviable task of containing Miami, per ESPN's Tommy Craft:
While Keaton McKinney has registered a 3.27 ERA through 82.2 innings, he has also recorded 43 strikeouts and 37 walks, an alarming ratio. That pits an extreme contact pitcher with flawed command against a patient lineup that has hit the snot out of baseballs all season.
Any chance Arkansas has rests on Andrew Benintendi, whom the Boston Red Sox selected with the No. 7 pick of the MLB amateur draft. The star outfielder, hitting an unfathomable .381/.489/.726 during his final collegiate season, kept his club alive against Virginia with his 20th homer of the year.
That blast, accompanying his 24 stolen bases, gave him a milestone unseen during the last five years, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Despite Benintendi's best efforts, none of his teammates has tallied more than six long balls this year. One star slugger can't carry an entire lineup, so this looks like his last game at Arkansas before hitting the pro circuit.