CWS Top Teams Bracket, Round Two: 2014 Virginia vs. 2011 FloridaCollege World Series
Today would have been the day six of the 2020 College World Series. Since we don’t have live baseball to watch, we’re taking a look back at the greatest CWS teams of the modern 64-team NCAA tournament era. In conjunction with NCAA.com, we’ve made our picks for the 32 best Omaha teams since 1999 and seeded them into a bracket.
Now it’s your turn. Each day, we’ll present a few matchups for fans to vote on, as we work our way through the bracket to determine the greatest College World Series team of the super regional era.
2014 Virginia Cavaliers (53-16 overall; CWS runner-up)
No. 25 seed
Virginia would take home the national title after sneaking into a regional as a No. 3 seed in 2015, but the 2014 team that fell just short of the championship was actually more talented and far more consistent from the start of the year to the finish. The Cavaliers entered 2014 as preseason No. 1 and spent the entire season ranked in the top five, going 22-8 in the ACC and earning the No. 3 national seed. After allowing just three runs in a 3-0 run through the Charlottesville Regional (which included two wins over Arkansas), UVa. dropped its super regional opener against upstart Maryland but bounced back with two convincing victories to reach Omaha. Virginia rode dominant pitching to wins over Ole Miss, TCU and Ole Miss again in bracket play, allowing just four runs total in that 3-0 run. Then the Cavs split the first two games of the CWS Finals against Vanderbilt. The decisive third game was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when Vandy’s Johnny Norwood hit a solo homer to lift the Commodores to a 3-2 victory.
The 2014 Cavs were stacked with talent, led by five future first-round picks (including major leaguers Derek Fisher and Matt Thaiss). Led by Fisher, Mike Papi, Joe McCarthy and Branden Cogswell, this was an athletic team that also had power potential, though it thrived off driving the gaps and racking up doubles in the dead-offense era of the early BBCOR days. But pitching and defense proved to be the strength of this club, led by first-team All-American Nathan Kirby, fellow lefty Brandon Waddell, future big leaguers Josh Sborz and Artie Lewicki, and flame-throwing first-rounder Nick Howard. Virginia finished second nationally with a 2.23 ERA, and fourth nationally with a .981 fielding percentage.
2011 Florida Gators (53-19 overall; CWS runner-up)
No. 24 seed
The Gators played for a national title for the second time in the 2000s in 2011. UF played Texas for the national title in 2005 but fell short of the ultimate goal. This time around, the Gators were tasked with trying to knock destined South Carolina off its perch. UF fell short yet again, but it was an incredible run to the CWS Finals. Florida defeated Manhattan and Miami (twice) to advance to the Super Regional round before taking two of three from Mississippi State to advance to the College World Series.
Once in Omaha, the Gators put together a rather drama-free run through their side of the bracket. UF defeated Texas before double-dipping SEC East rival Vanderbilt 3-1 and 6-4 to advance to the CWS Finals against the Gamecocks. UF dropped the first game to the Gamecocks, 2-1, before losing 5-2 to finish as the national runner-up. It was a disappointing end to a magical season, but a lot of accomplished and this run set the stage for UF’s eventual national championship in 2017.
In that 2011 CWS, to give you an idea of how different the bats are, UF hit .245, which ranked fourth in the field. South Carolina, the top team, ended the CWS with a .263 team batting average. A little different, eh? Too funny. By comparison, Florida finished the tournament with an impressive 1.96 team ERA, two spots behind South Carolina, which had a 0.88 ERA. Florida finished the tournament sixth in fielding with a .963 clip.
In terms of individual standouts in 2011, Bryson Smith led the Gators with a .368 average and two RBIs, while current Big Leaguer Mike Zunino hit .316. Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson (now a coach at South Florida) were the headliners on the mound. Randall had two starts and a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings, along with 11 strikeouts and a walk, while Whitson had a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings, along with nine strikeouts and three walks. Nick Maronde, Austin Maddox, and Greg Larson had unblemished marks out of the bullpen.
This was a strong run, and has since been followed by five CWS appearances for Kevin O’Sullivan’s program.
How They Match Up: You could say the best Cavaliers team didn’t win the national title. That’s the 2014 club, which fell just short of the grand feat against Vanderbilt. The Cavaliers had good depth from an offensive standpoint, and also had a solid one-two punch, along with a premier reliever in Josh Sborz. As for the Gators, they had one of the best players in the modern era in catcher Mike Zunino, while the weekend rotation was led by Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson. This matchup is very much a tossup with the two teams having similar strengths and weaknesses.
This matchup is very much a tossup with the two teams having similar strengths and weaknesses.
Who do you think would leave with a win?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 18, 2020