Virginia hopes for different ending
Cavs look to put 2010 Super Regional behind them this weekend
A No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship might look like a good résumé booster, but it certainly does not guarantee holding up the national championship trophy in Omaha at the end of June.
Just ask the last 11 No. 1 national seeds – all are trophy-less. In fact, since the new Super Regional format was instituted in 1999, only Miami (Fla.) has earned a No. 1 national seed and gone on to win the title.
Since then, four No. 1 national seeds have not even advanced to the College World Series. South Carolina lost in the 2000 Super Regionals, while Florida State fell in the round of 16 in both 2002 and 2003. In 2007, Vanderbilt was ousted in the regional after losing to Michigan twice.
In six of the last seven years, an unseeded team went on to win the national title – Cal State Fullerton (2004), Texas (2005), Oregon State (2006-07), Fresno State (2008) and South Carolina (2010). The lone exception was LSU, which was seeded No. 3 in 2009.
The history of the tournament is not lost on Brian O’Connor, the head coach of current No. 1 national seed Virginia. The Cavaliers will be hosting UC Irvine in the Charlottesville Super Regional beginning Saturday.
“You have to be playing really good fundamental baseball and things have to go your way to continue to advance,” O’Connor said.
Last year, only three of the eight national seeds punched tickets to the College World Series. Virginia, seeded No. 5, was one of the five national seeds that stayed home.
“There was so much hype last year,” O’Connor said. “In 2009, we had finally broke through and made it to Omaha. Then, we had our whole team back in 2010. We hosted the Regional and the Super Regional with Oklahoma coming here.”
Hosting its first Super Regional, Virginia went down in three games to Oklahoma, ending the season with a painful 11-0 loss.
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“Maybe, it was assumed by everyone that we were just supposed to win and go to Omaha again,” O’Connor said. “I guess maybe as a group we learned you can’t take things for granted. The team in the other dugout is very talented and earned the right to be there.”
Two years ago, Virginia was the talented team in the other dugout at the Irvine Regional. The Cavaliers eliminated the Anteaters, who were sporting their first national seed (No. 6) in school history. O’Connor knows UC Irvine will be happy to return the favor of ending the Cavaliers’ national title bid.
“We’re not one of these storied programs that have been to Omaha 10 times,” O’Connor said. “We’re still trying to prove that we can build a tradition here, and you do that be going out and earning it on weekends like this one.”
Since losing three games at North Carolina to conclude the regular season, the Cavaliers have gone on a seven-game winning streak and picked up ACC and Charlottesville Regional titles along the way.
“I think (getting swept by North Carolina) refocused our guys, and got them to understand how important the little details are against a really good opponent, and how much better you have to be,” O’Connor said. “Maybe, it sent our club a message that we had to be a little bit better. They never lost their confidence and haven’t looked back since.”
During the seven-game stretch, the Cavaliers have allowed more than two runs just once, and have scored at least six runs in seven of the contests.
“Our guys are getting after it all over the field, on the mound, at the plate, and doing some really great things,” O’Connor said following the regional. “I am very proud of what we just accomplished.”