On Monday afternoon, South Carolina learned its path to Omaha, Nebraska for the 2014 College World Series likely includes a trip to Charlottesville to face the Virginia Cavaliers, who earned the 3rd national seed. But before the Gamecocks worry about a potential match-up with the ACC Coastal division runners up, they must take care of Maryland, Old Dominion, and Campbell in Columbia this weekend.
South Carolina begins its tournament on Friday against the fourth-seeded Campbell, the champions of the Big South. The Camels earned their way to the Columbia regional by reeling off five straight wins in the Big South tournament in Rock Hill after losing their opener to Coastal Carolina, 9-2.
Campbell finished the regular season in second place in the North Division of the Big South, behind only a Liberty team that went 23-3 in conference play. They carry wins over N.C. State, Missouri, and Virginia Tech on their resume as well. Their 40-19 record was compiled primarily against lower-tier competition, and they don't seem to excel in one particular area of the game. They'll likely begin the regional throwing Heath Bowers, who sports a 2.95 ERA on the season with 100 strikeouts in 109.2 innings pitched while conceding just 32 walks and 102 hits (and just 3 home runs).
The second-seeded Terrapins went 15-14 in the ACC this season, good for second place in the ACC Atlantic (behind the 21-9 Florida State Seminoles). They started the conference season struggling against the better ACC teams, with series losses to Florida State, North Carolina, and Clemson, and followed those up with series losses against weaker sides such as Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. They also suffered a sweep at the hands of a pretty mediocre Boston College team, and looked like a team that might not see the NCAAs as of the end of April.
However, they turned it on late with sweeps of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to end the conference season before going 2-2 in the ACC Tournament, reaching the final game thanks to wins over Florida State and Virginia before falling to Georgia Tech in the championship game. That stretch solidified their spot in the field, the first bid they've received in 43 years.
The Terrapins look similar to Carolina in that they don't dominate on offense - they carry a team OBP of .380 and a team slugging percentage of .362 into the weekend - but get it done on the mound. Maryland's pitching staff brings a 3.42 ERA into Columbia, with an opposing OBP of just .315 and an opposing slugging percentage of .327 (for comparison's sake, the Gamecock offense posts a .360 OBP and a .375 slugging percentage, while the pitchers concede a .294 OBP and a .287 slugging percentage to opponents).
They match up against the three seed, Old Dominion, in the first game of the regional. The Monarchs lost the CUSA Championship game this weekend to Rice in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and bring a 36-24 record (17-13 in CUSA) to Columbia.
The bracket shakes out as follows, with Games 1 and 2 on Friday, Games 3 and 4 on Saturday, Games 5 and 6 on Sunday, and Game 7 on Monday (if necessary).
The Gamecocks missed out on a national seed, in part due to a putrid performance in Hoover last week, and thus would travel to Charlottesville next weekend if seeding holds in the two brackets. It also was not helped by happenings elsewhere in conference tournaments:
The committee matched the Gamecocks up with the Virginia regional, and the two winners of those regionals play for a spot in Omaha next weekend in a best two-of-three super regional series. Joining the Cavaliers in that regional are four-seed Bucknell, second seed Liberty, and the three seed, Arkansas. An upset in Charlottesville and a win by Carolina means the Gamecocks would host the winner of that regional in a Columbia super regional next weekend with a berth to Omaha on the line.
Post edited to correct the fact that Maryland beat Virginia - not North Carolina - in the ACC Tournament.