OMAHA, Neb. — Next stop on the NCAA baseball tournament’s Road to Omaha is super regionals.
Four of the best-of-three series are Friday through Sunday, with the other four Saturday through Monday. The eight winners advance to the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha starting June 13.
Some things to know heading into the round of 16:
1. SEC BRAGGING RIGHTS
Football isn’t the only sport the Southeastern Conference likes to toot its horn about. For the fourth time in the 17 years of the current tournament format, five SEC teams made super regionals. No other conference can say that. Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and defending national champion Vanderbilt all advanced.
2. THE LONG BALL IS BACK
The numbers show the flat-seam ball introduced this season is doing what it was supposed to do. A total of 105 home runs were hit in the 101 regional games. Last year, for the entire NCAA tournament, 87 were hit in 139 games.
3. KEEPING IT IN-STATE
Three super regionals match teams from the same state: Florida State at Florida, Texas A&M at TCU and Louisiana-Lafayette at LSU. FSU won two of three over the Gators in the regular season. The teams also met in the 2005 super regionals, with Florida sweeping. A&M and TCU will be playing for the first time since TCU beat the Aggies in the 2012 regionals. Lafayette hasn’t played the Tigers since winning in Baton Rouge in February 2014.
4. LET’S DO IT AGAIN
Maryland’s move to the Big Ten hasn’t done much to keep the Terrapins separated from old ACC rival Virginia. The teams will face off in super regionals in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the second year in a row, this time after sharing a charter flight back from their regionals in California. The Cavaliers won last year’s super regional in three games.
5. DRAFT PICKS GALORE
When Vanderbilt plays at Illinois, some of the best major-league prospects will be on display. Vandy shortstop Dansby Swanson could be the first player taken in next week’s draft. Other potential top-10 picks are Vandy starting pitchers Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler and Illinois closer Tyler Jay.
6. WOO HOO, VCU
A lovable underdog always emerges. This year it’s Virginia Commonwealth, which visits college baseball blue blood Miami after knocking out Dallas Baptist. The Rams are only the fifth No. 4 regional seed to make it out of regionals. They’re all about pitching and defense, ranking among the national leaders with their 2.86 ERA and .976 fielding percentage. They’re gritty offensively, having been hit by pitches a nation-leading 112 times.
7. GRIN AND BEAR IT
No. 8 national seed Missouri State’s reward for winning its regional is a trip to Arkansas. A national seed typically gets to host its super regional, but the Bears share Hammons Field with the Springfield Cardinals, and the Double-A team is on a homestand through Sunday. The teams played March 31 in Fayetteville, and the Bears won 2-0. Before that, Arkansas had won 10 straight over Missouri State.
8. ABOUT THAT RALLY
The college baseball world is still abuzz over TCU’s comeback from an 8-1, seventh-inning deficit to beat North Carolina State 9-8 in 10 innings in the Fort Worth Regional final. According to Associated Press research, it was the biggest comeback in the NCAA tournament since UNC Wilmington used an 11-run ninth inning to turn an 11-4 deficit into a 15-11 victory in a 2008 regional elimination game.
9. LOOKING FOR PAYBACK
Cal State Fullerton dominated Louisville the last time they met in super regionals, outscoring the Cardinals 23-2 in a two-game sweep in California in 2009. This time the teams play in Louisville. The Titans won in their only meeting since 2009, 8-6 in Clearwater, Florida, four months ago.
10. TOUGH TICKET
Louisiana-Lafayette and LSU, schools separated by 56 miles, are playing each other in a super regional for the first time. How big a deal is this to fans in the Bayou State? Well, the price of an outfield bleacher seat — face value $10 — was listed at $365 on StubHub on Wednesday.