With the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament opening play on Friday, I felt it appropriate to put together a quick preview of what some of your favorite teams will be up against over the weekend. This year was a bit disappointing for North Carolina teams, with only two (UNC and Campbell) making the field. However, a total of seven ACC and three “local” teams made the field, giving me 10 teams to examine before the tournament begins. Of course, a preview would not be complete without predictions, which can be found at the end of the preview.
Campbell: First game: Friday vs. #1 South Carolina at 7 p.m.
Regional: Columbia, S. Car.
The Fighting Camels worked their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big South Conference Championship, defeating Winthrop 9-1 in the championship game. Campbell finished the season 40-19, giving the team its third straight 40-win season. The Fighting Camels are in the NCAAT for the second time in the program’s history, with the other appearance coming in 1990.
However, Campbell will have an uphill battle in the Columbia regional as the No. 4 seed. Continue reading for more on Campbell’s potential opponents: South Carolina, Maryland and Old Dominion.
College of Charleston: First game: Friday vs. #1 Florida at 7 p.m.
Regional: Gainesville, Fla.
The Cougars defeated William & Mary 6-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game to advance to the NCAAT for the sixth time in program history and for the third time in the past six seasons. College of Charleston ended the season with a 41-17 record and has the most wins of any No. 4 seed in the Tournament.
The CAA champions will open the tournament against the Florida Gators, the No. 2 overall national seed in the NCAAT. Although the Gators finished the season with a worse record than the Cougars (40-21), they also played one of the toughest schedules in the country, making them a tough and battle-tested team out of the SEC.
The Gators are likely one of the favorites to make it to the College World Series, but the Cougars hope to play the role of spoiler early in the Tournament and have the talent to do so. Continue reading more on College of Charleston’s potential opponents: North Carolina and Long Beach State.
Clemson: First game: Friday vs. #2 Oregon at 8 p.m.
Regional: Nashville, Tenn.
The Clemson Tigers had a fairly disappointing season by its standards, sneaking in to the NCAAT as one of the last four teams selected to participate. The Tigers finished the season sixth in the ACC and 36-23 overall, making them a No. 3 seed in the Nashville regional.
The Tigers defeated Miami (FL) and Duke in the ACC Tournament before losing to eventual champion Georgia Tech. They will open the NCAAT against the regional’s No. 2 seed, the Oregon Ducks (42-18) of the Pac-12. The Ducks finished fourth in the Pac-12 and are in the Tournament for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
Other potential opponents for Clemson in the regional include the fourth-seeded Xavier Musketeers (29-27) and the regional host, the Vanderbilt Commodores (41-18). Xavier defeated Creighton to win the Big East Conference championship, and Vanderbilt lost to Ole Miss in the third round of the SEC Tournament. The Commodores are one of five SEC teams hosting a regional in this year’s NCAAT.
Florida State: First game: Friday vs. #4 Georgia Southern at 6 p.m.
Regional: Tallahassee, Fla.
The Florida State Seminoles are the No. 5 overall national seed in the NCAAT and one of three ACC teams hosting a regional. It will be the 31st time in program history that the Seminoles have hosted a regional and their 37th straight NCAAT berth.
Florida State finished second in the ACC and won the Atlantic Division of the conference for the eighth straight season. They enter the NCAAT with high expectations and a great chance advance to the College World Series.
The Seminoles open play against No. 4 Georgia Southern Eagles (39-27), champions of the Southern Conference. Other potential opponents for FSU include the second-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (34-22) of the SEC and the third-seeded Kennesaw State Owls (37-21), who defeated Lipscomb to win the Atlantic Sun Conference championship.
The Owls have won 23 of their last 24 games and will be making their program’s first appearance in the NCAAT. They also have a catcher by the name of Max Pentecost who you should look up when you get the chance.
Georgia Tech: First game: Friday vs. #2 Washington at 4 p.m.
Regional: Oxford, Miss.
The Yellow Jackets are no stranger to the NCAAT and will be making their 30th appearance in program history this year. However, this year’s Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech were not expected to be playing in the postseason after finishing ninth in the ACC. In fact, the Yellow Jackets had to defeat Wake Forest just to make the ACC Tournament.
However, Georgia Tech proceeded to defeat Miami (FL) and Clemson before knocking off Maryland 9-4 in the ACC Championship, allowing their season to continue. The Jackets earned the No. 3 seed in the Oxford regional and will face Pac-12 opponent Washington (39-15-1), who will be making the long trip from Seattle to compete in the Tournament.
Other potential opponents for the Yellow Jackets include the hosts of the regional, the Ole Miss Rebels (41-18) of the SEC, and the fourth-seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks (36-25), who defeated Tennessee Tech to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship.
Maryland: First game: Friday vs. #3 Old Dominion at 1 p.m.
Regional: Columbia, S. Car.
The Terrapins fell just short of an ACC Championship in their final season in the conference, losing to ninth-seeded Georgia Tech in the championship game. Maryland finished the season 36-21 and will be playing in the program’s first NCAA Tournament in 43 years, making them one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 NCAA baseball season.
The Terps picked up two big wins over Florida State and Virginia in the ACC Tournament, giving them a bit of momentum as they enter play against the Old Dominion Monarchs (36-24) as the regional’s No. 2 seed. For more on other potential opponents for the Terrapins, check the information on Campbell above or continue reading for information on regional host South Carolina.
Miami (FL): First game: Friday vs. #4 Bethune-Cookman at 7 p.m.
Regional: Coral Gables, Fla.
The Miami Hurricanes finished the season 41-17 and won the regular season ACC Championship by going 24-6 in the conference. However, the Hurricanes failed to make the ACC Tournament Championship game, likely removing them from contention from an overall national seed.
The Hurricanes’ berth in the NCAAT is the program’s 42nd straight, the longest streak in the nation. They will also be hosting the 25th regional in program history. The Canes open regional play against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (26-31), who defeated Norfolk State 4-2 to win the MEAC Championship.
Other potential opponents for the Hurricanes in the regional include No. 2 Texas Tech (40-18) out of the Big 12 and No. 3 Columbia (29-18), the champions of the Ivy League for the second consecutive season. Columbia’s 29 wins is a program record, while Texas Tech will be making its first appearance in the Tournament since 2004.
North Carolina: First game: Friday vs. #2 Long Beach State at 1 p.m.
Regional: Gainesville, Fla.
Like its ACC counterpart Clemson, the Tar Heels had a fairly disappointing season by its generally lofty standards, going 34-25 and finishing seventh in the ACC. Also like Clemson, Carolina was one of the last four teams to make the NCAA Tournament, earning a No. 3 seed in the Gainesville regional.
This young team will have a difficult road ahead to advance through the regional, beginning with the 32-24 Long Beach State Dirtbags, which is back in the Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Dirtbags, hailing from the Big West Conference, enter the NCAAT red hot, having won 14 of its last 17 games.
In addition, the Tar Heels lost two out of three games to College of Charleston early in the season, making that potential matchup in the regional quite interesting. For more on the College of Charleston Cougars and the Florida Gators, read the section above featuring College of Charleston.
South Carolina: First game: Friday vs. #4 Campbell at 7 p.m.
Regional: Columbia, S. Car.
The Gamecocks will host a regional in Columbia for the fifth straight season after going 42-16 in 2014. It will be the 14th straight appearance for South Carolina in the NCAAT, the longest current streak in the SEC. The Gamecocks have bordered on the level of dynasty under head coach Chad Holbrook, winning the College World Series in 2010 and 2011 and finishing runners-up in 2012.
For more information on South Carolina’s opponents, check the headings above featuring Campbell and Maryland.
Virginia: First game: Friday vs. #4 Bucknell at 2 p.m.
Regional: Charlottesville, Va.
Virginia has emerged as a baseball powerhouse in the 11th season under head coach Brian O’Connor. The Cavaliers will host a regional for the fifth straight season, joining the South Carolina Gamecocks as the only teams to achieve that feat. The Wahoos finished the season 44-13, and despite not reaching the ACC Championship Game, earned the No. 3 overall national seed and are considered one of the favorites to win the College World Series.
The Cavaliers open their regional play with the fourth-seeded Bucknell Bison (30-19-1), who defeated Lehigh in a best-of-three series to win the Patriot League. The Bison will make their sixth appearance in the NCAAT, but have just one win in their previous five trips.
Other potential opponents for Virginia include No. 2 Arkansas (38-23) of the SEC and No. 3 Liberty (41-16) of the Big South Conference. Liberty received an at-large bid, just the second time a Liberty team has received an at-large bid to a postseason tournament in any sport.
Although my preview of the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament is nearly complete, I think it is appropriate for me to add in a few predictions of my own. I am certainly no expert, but everyone knows how much fun filling out brackets can be during basketball season, so why not give it a shot for baseball? Here are my predictions for who will advance to the College World Series:
John’s CWS Picks:
No. 1 Oregon State
No. 5 Florida State
No. 3 Virginia
No. 7 TCU
No. 2 Florida
National Champion: No. 5 Florida State
Runner-Up: No. 7 TCU
With that, I’ll wrap up this first (and rather lengthy) edition of Peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Stay tuned for more baseball updates throughout the summer!