The finish line is in sight for the eight remaining teams in contention to win the NCAA College World Series. Classes may be over, but these students are still working hard as they fight to be the victors in Omaha, Nebraska. With the super-regional matchups behind us, we are left with the eight remaining teams: UC Irvine, University of Texas, University of Louisville, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Texas Christian University, University of Mississippi and the University of Virginia. These eight teams will enter into the double elimination championship bracket play to determine which collegiate team is the best in the nation.
How the championship round works
The championship round of play in the College World Series is double-elimination. For the first round of games, the eight teams are split into two groups of four. Each group will therefore consist of two matchups in the first round. The winners of these first round games will then play one another in a winners bracket and the losers will play one another in a losers bracket. Teams in the losers bracket have to win their next four games (beating their opponent in the losers bracket, the loser of the winners bracket and the winner of the sinners bracket twice) to get in the finals. Meanwhile, the winner of the winners bracket has the most wiggle room as they will end up playing a team they have already beaten for a spot in the finals.
In the first group this year will be UC Irvine vs. Texas and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. The other group will be Texas Tech vs. TCU and Virginia vs. Mississippi.
Breaking down this year's matchups
This year's fight for the CWS title was full of upsets as nationally seeded teams were ousted from the competition early. As a result, many of the teams heading to Omaha are a bit of an underdog. Here is a breakdown of what we can expect in the first four games of double-elimination bracket play:
UC Irvine vs. Texas
The University of California, Irvine, certainly proved themselves when they knocked out No. 1 Oregon State all the way back in the regionals. This is only the second time that the Anteaters have had a shot at the CWS championship since they became a Division I program in 2002. But what UC Irvine may lack in experience they more than make up for in talent. Pitcher Andrew Morales made headlines when he pitched a five-hit shutout against Oklahoma State in the super regionals.
But don't think Texas is going to make things easy for the boys from California. This will be the University of Texas' 35th run at the CWS title and glory. With that kind of experience, they are sure to have a more refined sense of the strategy necessary to pull off a win. In addition to all their championship appearances, the Longhorns have also won the title a total of six times, most recently in 2005. With head coach Augie Garrido at the helm, the winningest college baseball coach of all time, it's difficult to see this first round game going very well for the Anteaters.
Louisville vs. Vanderbilt
Freshman Nick Solack is bringing Louisville to their second consecutive CWS appearance. The designated hitter for the Cardinals more than proved himself a formidable force when he blasted off a fifth-inning two-run homer against Kennesaw State. In his two super regional games, the young hitter racked up six RBI, a home run and two doubles.
But Vanderbilt has a hotshot freshman phenom of its own. Relief pitcher Hayden Stone closed out the Commodores' fight against Stanford by pitching six innings while only allowing three hits. The result was a Vanderbilt win of 12-5, and all from a team that had lost six of the 11 games it had played before entering the tournament.
Texas Tech vs. TCU
This marks the first CWS appearance for Texas Tech. It was junior left-handed pitcher Chris Sadberry that stood out amongst the Red Raiders' ranks. He managed to hold off the College of Charleston in the super regionals by racking up a total of eight strikeouts.
The Horned Frogs from Texas Christian University, however, are no strangers to the tournament - this will be their second time in the CWS in five seasons. Both TCU and Texas Tech are Big 12 teams, and with Texas on the other side of the bracket, there are some interesting possibilities for an all-Texas finals.
Virginia vs. Ole Miss
UVA is one of only two nationally seeded teams that remains in the running for the CWS title (the other being TCU). They continually demonstrate their exceptional talent with sophomore pitcher Josh Sborz and third baseman Kenny Towns, leading the Cavaliers to their third CWS tournament in six seasons.
Ole Miss has finally gotten out of their 42-year rut. This will be the first time since 1972 that the University of Mississippi manages to send its baseball team to the College World Series. It was a homerun from the Rebels' own Austin Anderson that would turn the tide against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The team is now coming into the championship tournament with the momentum that only comes from reversing a four-decade-long dry spell.
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Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were the three MLB players selected to join the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. After a voting process that resulted in an empty class of inductees in 2013, the chosen three will enter into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
Ever wondered how they choose who will be honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.? Here is a rundown of the process, along with the significant accomplishments that earned these three a spot in the sport's history.
Election to the hall
Nomination to the Baseball Hall of Fame lies in the hands of a group of reporters known as the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA for short). This group of baseball journalists has been around since 1908 and currently counts over 700 members among its ranks. Of these 700 total members, only those who have been active for 10 seasons are eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame induction, or, as the pros call it - enshrinement.
These electors are tasked with voting on a long list of eligible candidates to determine who will be so enshrined. Unfortunately, candidacy for this election is a bit more stringent than the old throw-your-hat-in-the-ring tactic.
The players' MLB careers must have at least in part fallen within a strict period beginning 20 years prior and ending five years before the year of the election. So, for this year's election, only players that were active at some point between 1994 and 2009 got their name on the list. In addition, your career has to have lasted at least 10 MLB championship seasons. Meet those minimum requirements and you at least get to be considered for the ballot.
However, getting on the list doesn't necessarily get you on the ballot. To do that, you have to get by the Screening Committee, a six-person team elected by the BBWAA to prepare the ballots. If you received at least 5 percent of the vote in the previous election you get automatic placement on the ballot. Meanwhile, first-timers must be nominated by at least two of the six committee members. The Screening Committee then arranges the names in alphabetical order and distributes the ballot to the electors.
At this point, electors have some options. They can vote for anywhere from zero to 10 of the names on the ballot for enshrinement. At the end of voting, only those players that over 75 percent of the electors voted for get to claim their spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 2014 election
This year's election was pretty exciting as it was only the second year since the first vote in 1936 that all the winners were first timers - a feat made even more impressive by the fact that nobody was elected by the BBWAA in 2013.
Greg Maddux swept the floor with more than 97 percent of the vote, receiving 555 of the 571 ballots. To put that number in perspective, the Great Bambino only mustered 95 percent of the vote during his election in 1936. Experts considered Maddux a likely candidate going into the vote due to his impressive career as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. His 23-year career spanned 335 game wins, four Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Glove Awards and eight All-Star games. With a career ERA of 3.16, the only surprise that many insiders felt after his announcement was that the vote wasn't unanimous.
Fellow Braves pitcher Tom Glavine racked up 305 wins over his 22-year career as a left-handed starting pitcher alongside Maddux. He is notable for his ability to sustain his talent well into the later years of his career, getting an invite to the 2006 All-Star Game at the age of 40, rounding out his total number of All-Star games to 10. Glavine also cruised through the election with 91 percent of the vote.
Frank Thomas, the designated hitter and first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, collected 83.7 percent of the vote. With a career batting average of .301, 521 home runs and over 1,700 RBIs, Thomas was clearly a first-rate hitter during his time. A winner of the American League MVP Award in 1993 and 1994, he clearly is no stranger to awards.
Unfortunately, poor Craig Biggio just couldn't catch a break during this year's election. This is the Houston Astros player's second year on the ballot and he managed to clock in at 74.8 percent of the vote, a mere .2 percent away from the qualifying percentage. There is always next year.
What do you think? Were there any snubs during this year's election? Can Biggio pull it together for a successful 2015 bid? Do too many American sports start with the letter "B"? Let us know in the comments!
Baseball fans everywhere have something to get excited about before the MLB season even starts. Spring training not only offers fans an excuse to escape the winter weather, it's the perfect way to gear up for the season. You get an inside look at how the players prepare for the season by watching their workouts and all of the preseason games.
You can see your favorite teams take the field in places like Arizona or Florida, depending on who you would like to watch. The Cactus League can be found in the The Grand Canyon State, and lets you cheer for teams such as the Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinatti Reds or the Colorado Rockies. If you happen to be in the Sunshine State, conversely, head to Lee County to see your favorite Boston Red Sox players or check out Tampa, where you'll be able to cheer on the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field. Other teams in the Grapefruit League include the Minnesota Twins, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Miami Marlins and more.
Spring Training is a grand tradition, helping fans get closer to the game while enjoying the sunny weather. This is one chance baseball fanatics have to get closer to their favorite players, with the average Spring Training stadium holding only 9,300 fans. Before and after games and workouts, you have the opportunity to line up for autographs from your favorite players.
When you have some time between games, there are plenty of attractions nearby in both Arizona and Florida. For example, if you're planning on watching the Anaheim Angels take the field, you can check out the ASU Art Museum or explore the Mill Avenue Shops, which is home to various stores, cafes and restaurants.
Join the New York Yankees in Tampa, where you can catch action on and off the baseball diamond. While Steinbrenner Field is an attraction in itself, lots of other area entertainment isn't far away. For instance, Adventure Island is nearby, and lets baseball fans get happily drenched on their choice of water rides spanning 30 acres.