After Virginia's elimination of California on Thursday night, just four teams remain in the hunt at the 2011 College World Series — and an SEC team will be playing for the national title.
The SEC East produced three teams that were perpetually in the top five of college baseball polls this season in Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and all three have made it to NCAA baseball's equivalent of the Final Four. Virginia, by comparison, was the ACC's dominant team, and took out Cal, a program that was on life support midway through the season, twice to stay alive in Omaha. The four remaining teams in Omaha are the heavyweights of this year in college baseball, and with Cal's elimination, Cinderella is finally long gone.
In the first bracket, Florida and Vanderbilt will play on Friday at 2 p.m.; if the Gators win, they advance to the second College World Series Championship Series in program history. If Vanderbilt wins — the Commodores are 1-4 against Florida this year — then the teams will play again on Saturday, with the winner heading to the championship series.
It's the same sort of story in the second bracket: defending national champion South Carolina can eliminate Virginia and earn its second consecutive trip to the championship series at 7 p.m. on Friday, while the Cavaliers can force a winner-take-all rematch on Saturday with a Friday triumph.
Both of those games will be shown on ESPN, as will a potential Florida-Vanderbilt game on Saturday; a Saturday game between South Carolina and Virginia would be shown on ESPN2. The championship series will be televised on ESPN, and will begin on Monday at 8 p.m.; its Game 2 is Tuesday at 8 p.m., and a Game 3, if necessary, would be Wednesday at 8 p.m.
All of the 2011 College World Series games can be streamed online at ESPN3.com.
Author's note: a previous version of this story had California advancing, not Virginia, due to a catastrophic error on my part. I regret and apologize for the error, and thank Chris Mycoskie for bringing it to my attention.
For the latest on the tournament, head to the 2011 College World Series hub. You can find recaps of the opening round matchups, as well as previews of each team in the tournament there.