The Diamond Rebels have advanced to Omaha for the first time in 42 years, but the road gets a lot harder from there as the eight best teams in division one college baseball square off.
A national championship is on the line at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., and some unfamiliar faces have made it to this stage.
Only two of the eight national seeds made it to Omaha in Virginia (49-14) and TCU (47-16).
The Southeastern Conference led all conferences in the number of teams advancing to the NCAA Baseball Tournament with 10, but only two of those teams made it to Omaha in Ole Miss (46-19) and Vanderbilt (46-19). Some of the favorites to make it to Omaha from the SEC were Florida, South Carolina and LSU. All three of these teams lost in regional action.
The other four teams that advanced to Omaha are Louisville (50-15), Texas (43-19), Texas Tech (45-19), and UC Irvine (40-23).
The Rebels faced a great team in Louisiana-Lafayette, one of the eight national seeds at their home park to advance to Omaha and they’ll face another national seed to start off the College World Series in Virginia.
Virginia comes into Omaha with a 49-14 overall record, going an astounding 34-4 at home, 13-7 on the road, and 2-3 in neutral site games. The ACC may be the next best baseball conference in the country behind the SEC and Virginia went 22-8 in conference play. Virginia has played extremely well against NCAA Tournament teams from the conference all season long, taking two out of three against Miami, three out of four against North Carolina, going 3-0 against Georgia Tech, 2-2 against Florida State, and two out of three against Maryland in the super regionals. Virginia has also played well against SEC competition. They opened up their season against Kentucky and lost 8-3, but they played Arkansas in the Charlottesville regional, defeating them twice.
When the Rebels meet up with Virginia on sunday, they’ll have to deal with one of the best pitchers in the country in sophomore Nathan Kirby, the ACC pitcher of the year. Kirby went 9-2 as a starter in 16 games, with an eye-popping 1.73 ERA, which led all pitchers in the ACC. Kirby has held batters in check all season long holding his opponents to a .182 batting average. Kirby was also fifth in the ACC in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Virginia leads all of the college world series teams in on base percentage with .379, while Ole Miss is not far behind with .372. The Rebels lead all the teams in Omaha in slugging percentage with .421. Virginia has a .382 slugging percentage.
The Rebels have had one of the best offenses in the country all season long, averaging more than six runs per game and they’ll need to continue swinging the bats well in order to get by the top notch pitching staff the Virginia has. Virginia has a 2.31 team ERA, which is good for top five in the country.
Virginia also sports the best fielding team in Omaha, with a .982 fielding percentage, which is the best out of the eight teams in Omaha.
Virginia entered the 2014 season as the preseason No.1 team in the country and advancing to Omaha and making it through the tough ACC proves Virginia is well deserving of their spot in Omaha and as the favorite to win the national championship. Ole Miss will have to defeat two national seeds back-to-back in order to continue their stay in Omaha. The Rebels are very capable of winning it all, but advancing to the championship round on the 23rd of June provides a daunting task.
The matchup is set for 7 p.m. Sunday.