The NCAA baseball championships get underway this weekend across the nation, with the University of Virginia and Liberty University in the same regional.
It's a long road to Omaha but UVA and Liberty are both headed in the right direction, earning their spot in the field of 64. Virginia is playing in its 11th-straight NCAA tournament. While they're happy to be hosting their fifth-straight regional, they know it doesn't make the competition any easier.
"When it gets to this time of the year, you're going to face really good teams that play consistent baseball,” Brian O'Connor, UVA’s head coach said. “There's no easy road for any team in this regional or any regional and you got to play good people and that's what you want. This is what it's about. It's about competition against really good people."
Liberty is making its second-straight NCAA Regional appearance, earning their first ever at-large bid to the tournament and the Flames’ fifth overall. And while they may not have the post-season resume as some of the other teams in the tournament, they're up for the challenge.
"Yeah, we do have a lot of guys back. I mean our lineup from top to bottom, most of us have been here,” Flames catcher/infielder Alex Close said. “We're going to go out and we know we're not supposed to win so we're going to go out and we're going to go out and we're going to play hard and try and shock the world."
Liberty head coach Jim Toman said: "Hopefully we get a few up in the air during the tournament if we can make contact with these pitching staffs that are here. Virginia and Arkansas, them guys have been in Omaha quite a bit the last few years and probably two of the best pitching staffs in the country over the last eight to 10 years. I don't know what the stats indicate but I know how good they are and Bucknell has obviously had a great year, so scoring runs will be at a premium. So you might see a little bit more bunting and hitting and running than normal from us I would assume. Anyway to score a run."
The top-seeded Cavaliers will get the Charlottesville regional started Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. against fourth-seeded Bucknell. Wahoos junior right-handed pitcher Artie Lewicki (5-1, 1.99 ERA) is expected to get the start against the Bisons’ Bryson Hough (8-3, 4.37 ERA).
Liberty’s game against Arkansas is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start Friday night.
WDBJ7 will be providing live updates from both games. Click here to follow along starting around 1:45 p.m. Friday.