Technically, the first pitch to this weekend’s Virginia-Mississippi State Super Regional will be fired by the Cavaliers’ Brandon Waddell shortly after 1 p.m., today.
Realistically, the series’ best matchup, however, won’t kick-off until around 3.
That’s when members of a sold-out Davenport Field crowd will start to inch closer to the edge of their seats. That’s when the intensity will get to knife-cutting levels.
That’s when the lights-out MSU bullpen will dig in against the fashionably late-coming UVa offense.
Strength vs. strength.
Let the winner book tickets to Omaha.
“It’s going to be the key to the series, to be honest with you,” said Virginia second baseman Reed Gragnani.
The numbers make for a perfect storm of a chess match.
In one corner, there’s the Bulldog relief unit and its 1.68 ERA. In the other, there’s the Wahoo clutch bats and their average of four runs a game in innings five-through-eight.
With a College World Series berth on the line, high drama is expected in this best-of-three series.
ESPN2 will broadcast today’s game one. ESPNU will carry Sunday’s 7 p.m. game two. Monday’s game three, if necessary, will be a 4 p.m. ESPN2 broadcast.
“They are using six or eight guys that are really good and consistent,” UVa coach Brian O’Connor said of MSU’s bullpen. “In all the games I’ve watched on television, they look like they can match up against anybody and they have talent. They’ve got guys with good arms, but they also have guys who can do things situationally.
The Mississippi State bullpen headliner is closer Jonathan Holder. A first team All-American, the sophomore right-hander is the SEC co-leader in saves with 17. He’s 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 81-to-14.
“He’s a big righty,” Cavalier first baseman Jared King said of the 6-foot-2, 229-pounder. “When you think of the SEC, that’s the type of kid that I would picture He’s a big, tall righty. He’s got a plus-fastball — 90-95 mph — and a good breaking ball. He’s got two-plus pitches, that’s why he’s so tough.
“I’d like to think that we’re going to be ahead and not have to worry about it. But I’m sure, at some point, we’re going to face him and we’re just going to have to compete against him.”
But Holder is hardly by himself.
In Monday’s Starkville Regional title game, left-hander Chad Girodo, in relief, threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run and scattering five hits. He struck out 12 in the 6-1 win over Central Arkansas.
Girodo hasn’t started a game this season. He’s 7-1 with a 1.10 ERA. Lefty Ross Mitchell also has not started a game in 2013. He’s 12-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
As a whole, Bulldog relievers have 30 wins. The team is 46-18.
“Our bullpen’s been pretty successful this year,” Holder said. “We’ve got guys that can do different things. We’ve got lefties who can come in for lefties, right-on-right. We’ve got guys that can come in and eat innings.
“We just have a different variety of people that come in and get the job done. I’m sure our starters feel comfortable leaving it to the bullpen, and our bullpen feels comfortable coming in.
“It’s put together pretty well.”
So is the UVa lineup.
The Cavs (50-10) led the ACC in batting in the regular season. For the first time in program history, they have six players with at least 40 RBI.
And much of the production has come once the opposing starter has left the mound.
From the seventh inning on, Virginia has outscored its foes, 168-54.
UVa has rallied from down three runs or more to win on nine occasions this year. Six of those victories came in the sixth inning or later.
“By the time our guys get to their third or fourth at-bat of the game, they have really kind of figured it out,” King said. “They have made the adjustments that maybe they haven’t made the first couple of innings.
“Also, we’ve been in a lot of close ballgames when we’ve needed those runs. At that point, we will get together and just really refine our approach depending on whoever we’re facing. We’ve just been really successful with that.”
So what’s going to give this weekend?
Check by the Dav around 3, today, for a first glance.
“I know that’s a big part of what got them here this year,” said O’Connor, continuing his praise of the MSU bullpen. “It’s also a big part of where we fit in. We’ve had  comeback victories.
“On paper, that looks like it’s going to be tough to do.”