Around 11:40 p.m., Monday, just over 24 hours after it had already clinched its spot, Virginia got its opponent for this weekend’s Super Regional at Davenport Field.
Mississippi State, courtesy of 17 strikeouts, eliminated Central Arkansas, 6-1, in a second regional championship game at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss.
The Bulldogs (46-18) are Charlottesville-bound.
The Cavaliers (50-10) have already started tracking their path.
“I did watch about five innings of the game,” UVa coach Brian O’Connor told reporters Tuesday. “It looks like Mississippi State has a very, very good ballclub. I know coming into the season, a lot of people were predicting them to be an Omaha, College World Series team.
“Just the little bit that we’ve seen of them and looking at them statistically, Mississippi State looks like they have a tremendous pitching staff. They have a lot of strikeouts and a lot of really talented guys in their bullpen. They have athletic position players that have power and can run.
“They’re your traditional SEC kind of team.”
The Bulldogs bat .293. They’ve got a collective team ERA of 2.73. Their closer is an All-American. Their right fielder is expected to go high in this week’s Major League Baseball draft.
Added all together, O’Connor’s got a point — the 2013 version of Mississippi State is a strong representation of a league that’s captured nine national titles since 1990.
When MSU comes to Davenport on Saturday for game one of a best-of-three series, it’ll be getting the best of the country’s other top league.
There are 16 teams remaining in this NCAA Tournament. Eight are either from the SEC or ACC.
Only two Super Regionals match the sides together. North Carolina hosts South Carolina. Virginia takes on Mississippi State.
RPI-wise, these are conference battles of 1 vs. 2.
“I don’t take anything to ACC versus the SEC, really,” O’Connor said. “It’s two really good teams in a best two-out-of-three. It just happens to be that we’re from two of the top conferences in this country. There’s no extra motivation at all because of the league that they come from.
“It’s about us going out there and playing good baseball.”
Virginia put four on the All-ACC first team. Mississippi State put a pair on the All-SEC first team — closer Jonathan Holder (2-0, 1.17 ERA, 17 saves) and right fielder Hunter Renfroe (.352, 15 home runs, 58 RBI).
This weekend, the skills will be pouring out of both dugouts.
“I know the media’s going to make a big deal out of it,” UVa first baseman Jared King said of the ACC-SEC matchup. “Obviously, Mississippi State’s an incredibly talented team. They’ve done everything they’ve needed to to get to this point so I think it’s going to be a great matchup.”
Of course, Virginia got to its first College World Series by defeating MSU's SEC rival Ole Miss in a 2009 Super Regional.
When asked the question, O’Connor turned to show cameras the visual proof.
Yes, Branden Cogswell, Virginia’s sidelined shortstop for the last month with a broken finger, was indeed fielding ground balls and throwing softly during Tuesday’s practice.
His status for this weekend, however, remains unknown.
“Really, the next three or four days will tell us a lot,” O’Connor said. “I’m excited that it’s a Saturday-Sunday-Monday Super Regional because it gives him another day.
“I have no idea if he’ll be able to play the field or not. He’s just begun to start throwing and swinging the bat a little bit. I think he’ll progress every day. We’ll probably know a lot more on Friday on his status and kind of go from there.”
If the sophomore does happen to get clearance, it could make for some interesting decisions with the Cavalier lineup.
When Cogswell went down before the Duke series in early May, O’Connor moved Nick Howard from third base to short and plugged in Kenny Towns at third.
If Cogswell were to return to short, logic would suggest Towns, an All-Charlottesville Regional honoree after a four-hit, four-RBI weekend, to be the odd man out.
But, then again, this would depend on a full Cogswell return, something O’Connor wasn’t so sure of Tuesday.
“The kind of injury Branden Cogswell had, I’d be really surprised if he played shortstop this weekend,” O’Connor said. “I really would because the finger that he fractured is the last finger that the ball comes off when you throw. So it usually takes quite a bit of time.
“But I certainly believe he’ll be able to help us in some kind of capacity. If he’s able to play the infield, then we’ll look at it and make the decision based on what we think gives us the best chance to win.”
Still setting the rotation
O’Connor said he hasn’t decided on the Saturday starter vs. the Bulldogs, but “[Brandon] Waddell will start one of the games, [Scott] Silverstein will start another. We’ll see where we’re at in game three.”
In the Regional, Waddell and Silverstein went a combined 13 innings, giving up just one run. Whit Mayberry was the game three starter and was pulled after three runs in three innings.