Founders Park will be home to an NCAA Super Regional this weekend — but the hometown Gamecocks won’t make an appearance.
After climbing through the loser’s bracket as a No. 3 seed and eliminating South Carolina during the first round of the NCAA tournament, Virginia will remain in Columbia and take on a surging Dallas Baptist team.
The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, which begins June 19.
Home field advantage, or not?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 20 host sites were approved by the NCAA prior to NCAA regionals. That arrangement led to a unique circumstance where South Carolina served as a No. 2 seed in its own ballpark, with Old Dominion serving as a traveling No. 1 seed. Because neither Dallas Baptist nor Virginia were among the original 20 host schools, they’ll be playing at a neutral site. After more than 7,000 fans attended South Carolina’s prime-time bout with ODU, it seems unlikely the Founders Park atmosphere will reach that same level of excitement, but the Cavaliers could have a slight advantage with Charlottesville in driving distance.
Can Virginia mirror its 2015 season?
In 2015, the Cavaliers were a preseason top-five team, coming off a national championship appearance — and loss — against Vanderbilt. Injuries and inconsistency sent Brian O’Connor’s squad plummeting out of the top 25 and out of the postseason picture before a late-season surge catapulted Virginia to Omaha, where the Hoos would go on to win their first national title. This season, Virginia (33-24) was all but left for dead at midseason but snuck into the NCAA regional with a strong showing down the stretch and in the ACC tournament. Led by electric lefty starter Andrew Abbott, funky closer Stephen Schoch and the power bats of Zack Gelof and Kyle Teel, the Cavaliers powered their way through the NCAA regional and are among the hottest teams in the country.
Can Dallas Baptist finally make the jump to Omaha?
Much like Virginia, Dallas Baptist came into the Fort Worth Regional, hosted by No. 1-seed TCU, as a No. 3-seed underdog, but the Patriots knocked off both the Horned Frogs and No. 2-seed Oregon State to advance to the Super Regional. They did so in dramatic fashion, with third baseman Andrew Benefield drilling a two-out, go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning against the Beavers in the final game of the regional. In 18 years as head coach, Dan Heefner has built DBU (40-16) into a consistent NCAA regional team, but the Patriots are appearing in their first Super Regional in a decade and have yet to appear in the College World Series. Before the Fort Worth Regional, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle — now the new head coach at Texas A&M — said of the Patriots: “That’s an Omaha team that hasn’t broken through yet.” Featuring five players with double-digit home runs, DBU could provide fireworks at Founders Park this weekend.
Columbia Super Regional schedule
Who: Virginia (33-24) vs. Dallas Baptist (40-16)
When: Saturday at noon; Sunday at noon; Monday at 1 p.m. (if necessary)
Where: Founders Park in Columbia
How to watch: Saturday on ESPNU; Sunday on ESPN2; Monday on ESPNU.
More NCAA baseball tournament Super Regional games
All games best-of-three series
Knoxville Super Regional
Saturday: Tennessee vs. LSU, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Tennessee vs. LSU, noon or 3 p.m.
Monday: Tennessee vs. LSU, 4 or 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Lubbock Super Regional
At Texas Tech
Friday: Texas Tech vs. Stanford, 3 p.m.
Saturday: Texas Tech vs. Stanford, 3 p.m.
Sunday: Texas Tech vs. Stanford, 3 p.m. (if necessary)
Tuscon Super Regional
Friday: Arizona vs. Ole Miss, 9 p.m.
Saturday: Arizona vs. Ole Miss, 10 p.m.
Sunday: Arizona vs. Ole Miss, 9 p.m. (if necessary)
Starkville Super Regional
At Mississippi State
Saturday: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame, 2 p.m.
Sunday: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame, 6 p.m.
Monday: Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Nashville Super Regional
Friday: Vanderbilt vs. East Carolina, noon
Saturday: Vanderbilt vs. East Carolina, noon
Sunday: Vanderbilt vs. East Carolina, 3 p.m. (if necessary)
Fayetteville Super Regional
Friday: Arkansas vs. N.C. State, 6 p.m.
Saturday: Arkansas vs. N.C. State, 3 p.m.
Sunday: Arkansas vs. N.C. State, 6 p.m. (if necessary)
Austin Super Regional
Saturday: Texas vs. South Florida, 9 p.m.
Sunday: Texas vs. South Florida, 9 p.m.
Monday: Texas vs. South Florida, 4 or 7 p.m. (if necessary)