Both Mississippi State and Virginia were impressive in the regional round, though Virginia had an easier go of it. The No. 6 national seed has its hands full this weekend with the SEC-tested Bulldogs.
(6) Virginia vs. 1 Mississippi State
Davenport Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
Saturday: 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Monday (if necessary): 4 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN3)
This is Mississippi State's fifth-ever super regional appearance and their first since 2011. The Bulldogs are seeking a better result than their last time in a super when the Florida Gators swept them in Gainesville. If they can find a way past Virginia, it will be their first trip to Omaha since 2007.
The Cavaliers' last trip to a super regional was also in 2011, though they fared better than Mississippi State. They fought through UC Irvine to earn their third pass to the College World Series in school history.
Path to the supers
Virginia swept the Charlottesville regional, overcoming a surprisingly close 2-1 contest with Army and beating Elon on consecutive days. The first game with Elon was tight (2-0), but the Cavs' offense made easy work of the rematch, cruising 11-3.
Mississippi State lost an early-season series against Central Arkansas and they had trouble against them again in the Starkville regional. They won the first matchup on Friday, but were stuck with a 5-2 loss two days later. They rebounded well in the regional final, winning 6-1 to dispatch the pesky Bears.
Mississippi State has some pretty big bats in its lineup, the biggest of which belongs to Hunter Renfroe, whom the Padres selected with the No. 13 overall pick on Thursday. The junior is slugging .634 on the season and has sent 15 homers over the fence. Shortstop Adam Frazier makes good contact and has great speed, which he has used to churn out 17 doubles and six triples this year. Both Renfroe and Frazier had two RBIs apiece in Monday's win over UCA.
Virginia led the ACC in both batting average and slugging percentage, and sophomore Mike Papi led the conference with an absurd .527 on-base percentage. Sophomore Nick Howard, who also pitches, is hitting .462 so far in the tournament and had two RBIs in the second game against Elon.
Mississippi State has decent starting pitching with their three weekend starters holding a combined 16-11 record, but it's the Bulldog pen that makes this staff scary. Closer Jonathan Holder has 17 saves and leads the club with 81 strikeouts. Ross Mitchell and Chad Girodo are a combined 19-1 this season. In total, the team has four relievers that have pitched at least 30 innings and hold sub-2.00 ERAs.
Senior Scott Silverstein is the ace for the Cavs, holding a 10-1 record and a 2.86 ERA. He pitched six scoreless innings in Virginia's 2-0 win over Elon, striking out six. Brandon Waddell was impressive against Army, giving up only three hits in seven innings.
With their strong hitting and dominant relievers, it's tempting to pick Mississippi State here. If they can jump on the Virginia starters early and build a lead, they'll be heading to Omaha. That being said, their starting pitching may not be strong enough to hold back the Cavaliers. Virginia drops the first game, then rebounds to win the next two.