2014 NCAA Regional Tournaments. McKethan Stadium, in Gainesville Florida, is the home field for the University of Florida Gators baseball team and, once again, they host an NCAA regional tournament this year, the “Gainesville Regionals.” All eyes were fixed on the road to Omaha, Nebraska and the site of the NCAA Div. I Baseball Championship, the final destination for college baseball teams across the country. During the regionals, a total of (64) schools qualify to compete in pools of 4 teams. (30) teams are automatically given a birth for winning their respective conferences. NCAA committee is tasked with selecting the (34) other seats at large based on rankings, records, etc. They all have a tangible path to the College World Series. NCAA has used this regional format since 1975. During the Memorial Day weekend, there are (16) regional tournaments altogether. The winner of each regional tournament advances to the super regionals, a best of three series. And, those winners punch their ticket to Omaha. The College World Series is a 2-week event and only (8) can go. There are 299 Div. I baseball programs across the country.
In Game 1, it was #3 University of North Carolina vs. #2 Long Beach State, a fundamentally sound game through the (4) innings until Long Beach State broke through with a 6-run rally. It all simply started with an infield grounder and a batter outrunning the throw to first, a little hustle and a not so clean play by the shortstop undid what would’ve been a routine putout. Before the game, Tar Heels had concerns about their short stop Michael Russell’s absence on regional day. He had been sidelined with back spasms. Long Beach State Dirtbags beat University of North Carolina Tar Heels 6-1.
The other (2) teams in the “Gainesville Regional” were College of Charleston and University of Florida. The Florida Gators were heavy favorites but were upset in double elimination without winning a single game. The least likely to advance, the Charleston Cougars, did what the Florida Gators were heavily favored to do. Anything can happen in baseball and it usually does. The upsets continued when the Florida State Seminoles also went home early. They were hosting the “Tallahassee Regional” and did not win a single game. In fact, the Miami Hurricanes were the last team standing to possibly represent Florida in the College World Series. They hosted the “Coral Gables Regional.” Texas Tech Red Raiders would stage another upset at “the U” to eliminate the Miami Hurricanes as well. The Charleston Cougars went on to meet those Texas Tech Red Raiders in the “Lubbock Super Regionals.” The Raiders would host it, sweeping the best of 3 series. They won both games with a final score of 1-0, a true battle of underdogs. By advancing, Texas Tech was (1) of the Omaha (8). In 2014, the “Road to Omaha” ended with the Vanderbilt University Commodores meeting the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the best of (3) series 2 games to 1. Unbeknownst to anyone, these two teams would face off again in the final series of the 2015 College world series and this time University of Virginia Cavaliers returned the favor and won 2 games to 1. As they say, baseball can humble you in a hurry.
Long Beach State Dirtbags @ University of North Carolina Tar Heels