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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