Sure, it was expected on May 27. Just not on Feb. 15.
Shortly after noon, Monday, the Virginia baseball team was rewarded with a national seed for the NCAA Tournament.
What does that mean? Should the Cavaliers, seeded sixth nationally, take this weekend’s regional at Davenport Field, they will also host a super regional next week.
UVa is in such a spot for only the third time in program history, all coming since 2010.
But this is no ordinary accomplishment.
Not when these Wahoos were barely noticed in the preseason.
When Virginia opened at East Carolina on Feb. 15, it found itself in the top 25 of just one major poll. Nearly four months later, it’s considered a favorite for Omaha.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re in this position,” said ACC Coach of the Year Brian O’Connor, “because I felt coming into the start of the year, we had a lot of talent. It was just a matter of how consistent they would be. In order to be a national seed, you have to be very, very consistent throughout the entire year. It’s not something that’s done over two weeks.
“It’s great. It’s another feather in our cap. Obviously, it gives us a little bit of an advantage of being able to play at home and things like that.”
UVa (47-10) is the one-seed for the Charlottesville Regional. The Cavs will get fourth-seeded Army (29-21) at 1 p.m., Friday. Second-seeded UNC Wilmington (37-21) will then take on third-seeded Elon (32-28) at 6 p.m.
The Friday losers will meet in a 1 p.m., Saturday, elimination game. The Friday winners will meet at 6 p.m., Saturday. They’ll play a second elimination game at 1 p.m., Sunday, and the regional championship will be held five hours later.
If necessary, a second championship game will be played at 6 p.m., Monday.
ESPN3 will broadcast all contests online.
Virginia will be seeking to flip the 2012 script when it fell in its own regional by losing two of three.
The lone win? A 9-1 victory over Army on the tournament’s opening day.
“We know what kind of club that they have year in and year out,” O’Connor said of the Black Knights. “They’re always very well-coached. They’re tough kids that are really fundamental and they’ll come here ready to play baseball just like they were last year.
“We need to understand what we need to do fundamentally to be successful.”
Army is the Patriot League champion. UNC Wilmington, led by Albemarle High grad and home runs leader Tyler Molinaro, is an at-large selection from the CAA. Elon won the Southern Conference tournament.
Should the Cavaliers advance, they would get the winner of the Mississippi State regional. That bracket features the host Bulldogs (43-17), second-seeded South Alabama (42-18), third-seeded Mercer (43-16) and fourth-seeded Central Arkansas (39-20).
The next stop would be the College World Series.
With a national seed, Virginia has advanced to Omaha (2011) and has fallen in a super regional (2010).
During parts of both of those seasons, the ‘Hoos carried a No. 1 ranking. The 2013 bunch, a sophomore-heavy squad, only got as high as 4, but, then again, it had a lot more ground to make up in February.
“I think coming back after last year, I know a lot of people in the media were kind of writing us off,” said fifth-year senior first baseman Jared King. “We weren’t ranked preseason, but the adjustments and the growth that this team has had over this entire year has just really been fun to be a part of.
“Those first-year guys last year, they got that bad taste in their mouths at the end of the season on our home field. To be able to come back, to be able to see that in their eyes every day and wanting to get better and not let that happen again, I think it’s been really good to be a part of.”
The ACC, with eight teams, was second only to the SEC (nine) in NCAA Tournament selections.
North Carolina (No. 1) and Florida State (7) joined Virginia as top-eight national seeds.
O’Connor said shortstop Branden Cogswell, out for the past three weeks with a broken finger on his throwing hand, took limited infield practice on Monday. However, the sophomore’s status won’t be revealed until after a mid-week doctor visit. ... O’Connor also noted this weekend’s pitching rotation won’t be set until further scouting is done of the regional opponents. “It won’t necessarily be in the order that we’ve had it in the past — it could be — but our goal for this weekend is to not only win on Friday,” O’Connor said, “but you want to put your team in a position to win the whole thing.”