#4 Bucknell Bison, 30-19-1 (15-5), Patriot League
The Patriot League Champions are an automatic qualifier to the 2014 NCAA Tournament field. The Bison are in their first regional since 2010, when they were sent to Columbia, SC. They lost their opening game to South Carolina (the eventual NCAA Champions) 9-5 and then fell in their loser's bracket game 16-7 to Virginia Tech.
This is the first season for their head coach, Scott Heather, which might be a familiar name for you long time die hards. Heather pitched for the then head coach Norm DeBriyn in 1997-98, and was a student assistant for the Diamond Hogs in 1999. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2003, while he working as an assistant at UA-Fort Smith from 1999-2004.
They aren't the most impressive automatic qualifier, coming in with a RPI of 111 and only one win versus the RPI top 50. The Bison are 0-3 versus the SEC this season. Their first three games of the season were in Columbia, SC taking on the Gamecocks. South Carolina out scored them 37-6 during the weekend series.
If you really want a numbers breakdown of the Bison, our partners over at Virginia's SB Nation site broke down all their numbers. You can see that here.
Honestly, I want Bucknell to beat Virginia in the first round for the selfish reason of getting revenge for the loss they handed the Razorback basketball team in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament. We live in reality, however, and I don't think the Bison are going to win a game in this regional.
Regional prediction: 0-2.
#3 Liberty Flames, 41-16 (23-3), Big South
Their conference record is impressive, to be sure, but I argue that their RPI (28), is proof of the flaws of the RPI. They are 2-4 vs. the RPI top 50, where Arkansas is 17-16 vs. the RPI top 50. Guess who has the higher RPI? Liberty does. Nonetheless, the Flames are a quality opponent. The highest they reach in the RPI was 16 after week 10 of the season.
The craziest thing I could find about them is that they are NOT and automatic qualifier. They lost in the Big South Championship game to Campbell, so shout out to the Big South on getting two teams in the NCAA Tournament. This is their first time to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
This is the first time the Flames and the Razorbacks will have met on the diamond. Liberty is 6-1 versus Bucknell and 31-21-1 against Virginia. Yeah, that all-time winning record against the Cavaliers shocked me as well.
Technically, they are 1-0 vs. the SEC this season. I say technically because, what do you call Missouri baseball? The Flames burned the Tigers 2-1 back on Feb. 25 in Cary, NC. This is not their first visit to Charlottesville this season. They played a midweek game against regional host team Virginia just three weeks ago, losing to the Cavaliers 8-2.
Regional prediction: 1-2
#2 Arkansas Razorbacks, 38-23 (16-14), SEC
The Diamond Hogs are coming into Charlottesville hotter than July in the Delta. While it is disappointing the Razorbacks couldn't do enough to host, they are riding a four game road winning streak. Granted, three of those wins are against bottom feeder Missouri, it is still good to see the Hogs improve on a road record that was once 4-10.
Injuries have been the main storyline for them of late. But, what has been even bigger has been the play of guys coming off the bench. Clark Eagan, Alex Gosser, Zach Jackson (becoming a starter) and Josh Alberius have all either one or several key plays to keep this team rolling through adversity.
The story, as it has been all season for the Razorbacks, is if they can score enough runs to make it out of Charlottesville. Last season, they didn't make it out of Manhattan, KS because of that exact reason and this team has struggled at times with that as well.
College baseball fans are in for a treat if the Hogs and Cavaliers make it to the second round together because these are two of the best pitching staffs in the nation. Arkansas has already announced they are saving their ace, Trey Killian, for game two. But, as they learned last year against Bryant, they can't dig themselves in a hole by losing the first game.
Regional prediction: 2-2
#1 Virginia Cavaliers, 44-13 (22-8), ACC
As the #1 team in the RPI and several different polls, they have been one of the most consistent teams throughout the season. However, they have hit a slow patch going just 6-4 in their last 10 games, including a 1-2 performance in the ACC Tournament. They may have taken their foot off the gas in ACC Tournament knowing that they had a national seed locked up.
This is their 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and its 14th all-time. The Cavaliers are one of eight teams to compete in the last 11 NCAA Tournaments.
They have a solid pitching staff and defense behind them, allowing only 2.7 runs a game. At games they have struggled with their bats at times like the Razorbacks, but still average 5.4 runs a game.
I'm not sure how hostile of an environment Charlottesville is, but they have a 29-3 home record this season. Davenport Field seats 5,001 for post-season play. So as far as the crowds go, Arkansas has played in front of much bigger road crowds playing in the SEC
For what it's worth, they are 0-1 versus the SEC this year. They dropped an 8-3 decision to Kentucky in Wilmington, NC on opening day of their season.
Regional prediction: 3-0
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