Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Arkansas to face Liberty in Virginia
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn walks toward the mound during a SEC Tournament game against LSU on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will play Liberty in the first game of the NCAA regionals at 6 p.m. Friday in Charlottesville, Va.
The Razorbacks (38-23) are the No. 2 seed in the Charlottesville regional, hosted by the University of Virginia. Friday's game will be the first ever between Arkansas and Liberty, and will be televised nationally by ESPNU.
Liberty, located in Lynchburg, Va., is 41-16 this season. The Flames won the Big South Conference regular season championship but lost in the conference tournament semifinals.
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Like Arkansas, Liberty has one of the nation's top pitching staffs. The Flames' 2.62 team earned run average ranks 14th nationally, just ahead of the Razorbacks at 2.63.
Arkansas is in the regional round for the 13th consecutive season. The regional round has a double elimination format with games Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and if necessary Monday.
Virginia is the No. 3 national seed in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers are 44-13 overall this season and 29-3 at their 4,980-seat home, Davenport Field. Virginia will host Bucknell in the first game of the regional.
The winner of the Charlottesville regional will play the winner of the Columbia, S.C. regional in the super regional round. The Columbia regional includes South Carolina, Maryland, Old Dominion and Campbell.
Arkansas and Virginia last played in the 2009 College World Series. The Razorbacks beat the Cavaliers 4-3 in a 12-inning classic that included a Brett Eibner home run to tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning.
The draw in Virginia comes as bit of a surprise after the Razorbacks finished the year winning nine of their final 12 games. Arkansas was passed over for several regionals closer to home, including at Oklahoma State, TCU, Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.