The Florida Gators finished the season with the No. 3 RPI (trailing only Virginia and Indiana) after navigating through the most difficult schedule in the country. They were rewarded by the NCAA selection committee with the No. 2 overall seed in the country but you might not know it when you look at who they will host in their regional.
Florida will host Long Beach State, North Carolina and the College of Charleston this weekend at McKethan Stadium.
Based on RPI, the Gators have the toughest draw of any of the 16 regional hosts, which, according to Kevin O’sullivan, might not be a bad thing.
“I told our team, to be honest with you, this is probably a regional we need,” he said. “We tend to play up to our competition or sometimes down to our competition. I’m excited about it.”
The road isn’t easy. If Florida can navigate their regional they will host the winner of the Coral Gables region — likely a rematch with Miami.
But that’s looking too far down the road. O’Sullivan and the Gators will likely have to use freshman ace Logan Shore on Friday night just to get past their opening opponent. That’s just the way things have been for the Gators this season, entering most weeks with a Shore, TBA, TBA pitching rotation.
“Right now, that’s probably what we’re looking at,” O’Sullivan said about going with his ace on Friday night. “I mean I don’t know how else you can look at it. You’re playing a team that’s got over 40 wins, are you going to roll the dice? I think you have to respect your opponent.”
Speaking of Florida’s opponents, let’s take a closer look at just who the Gators will play this weekend with their first step on the road to Omaha.
No. 2 seed, Long Beach State Dirtbags
Location: Long Beach, California
Record: 32-24/17-7 Big West
NCAA RPI: 29
Colors: Black and Gold
The Dirtbags — an official school nickname for the baseball team (and the best baseball nickname in the country) — finished the season red-hot, winners of 14-of-17 including a sweep of UC Irvine to close out the season.
This is the first postseason appearance for the Dirtbags since 2008 and their opening game against North Carolina will be the first time the two teams have met in postseason play.
No. 3 Seed, North Carolina Tar Heels
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Record: 34-25/15-15 ACC
NCAA RPI: 42
Colors: Carolina Blue and White
Carolina secured a postseason spot with a one-run victory over North Carolina State in a play-in game to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is the 13th consecutive season that the Tar Heels have made the postseason and the 29th overall. They have compiled 49 postseason wins since 2006, the most in the country in that time span.
No. 4 seed, College of Charleston Cougars
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Record: 41-17/15-6 Colonial
Bid: Automatic (CAA Champions)
NCAA RPI: 53
Colors: Maroon and White
To show just how difficult this region truly is, the fourth seed enters the tournament with more wins than the three teams seeded higher than them.
CofC earned an automatic postseason bid when they won the Colonial conference in the first season that the Cougars played in the league.
The Cougars and Gators squared off twice in 2002 (Florida won both games) and also took two out of three games against North Carolina to begin the season. They have never played Long Beach State in baseball. They were also in the Gainesville regional in 2012 but did not play Florida.