Virginia Baseball in rarified air by hosting NCAA regional once again

By Jerry Ratcliffe

When the TV cameras and reporter microphones were turned off, Brian O’Connor couldn’t contain his excitement about hosting another NCAA baseball regional this coming weekend.

Standing in front of the dugout on the first-base line of “The Dish,” where his Virginia team has been very difficult to beat, O’Connor slapped this reporter on the shoulder and joyfully said, “11 regionals in 21 seasons … not too bad.”

For clarification, that’s hosting 11 regionals in 21 seasons with O’Connor at the helm of the Cavaliers. Oaks wasn’t bragging (it ain’t bragging if it’s true), he was just excited. Fans tend to take such feats for granted, but what UVA has accomplished under its skipper is special. People just don’t understand how hard it is to reach this plateau of college baseball.

I replied to O’Connor that I wondered how many programs in the country could stake the same claim of hosting 11 regionals over the past 21 years. Skipper didn’t know, but he guessed it could only be a handful.

Curious minds wanted to know, so we researched it, and Oaks was correct.

Keep in mind there are 300 Division-I major college baseball programs. Here’s the scoop:

Only five of those 300 programs have hosted 11 or more regionals over the past 21 seasons:


Florida State-13




Four more schools have hosted 10 during that span: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Oregon State and Vanderbilt. Five more have hosted nine: Clemson, Miami, South Carolina, Texas and Cal State Fullerton.

The No. 12 seed Cavaliers (42-15) will open play at noon Friday against Penn (24-23). Mississippi State (38-21) and St. John’s (37-16-1) will meet in the nightcap at 7 p.m. (Both games will be televised by ESPN+). The double-elimination event will continue with doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday at noon and 6 p.m., with a second regional final game scheduled on Monday if necessary.

UVA is one of only four programs in the nation to host back-to-back regionals. The Charlottesville Regional is matched against the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional, which boasts Arkansas, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech and Southeast Missouri State.

For ticket and parking information, see related story on this site from Sunday.

“The fact that we’ve been selected by the NCAA more than half the times to be a host site is something that our program and our athletic department is very, very proud of,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot that goes into that. Certainly you have to perform on the field, and your team each and every year has to earn that opportunity.

“But you also have to have a facility and a fan base to drive that to put in a bid that’s competitive and show the NCAA that you’re going to put together a first-class event, and that’s what we do here. Our fans come out for the games, even for the games we’re not playing in, and that’s a great atmosphere for college baseball.”

While it’s a festive atmosphere surrounding the week, O’Connor made it clear to his team prior to his chat with media that there’s only one focus in preparation for the tournament: Penn.

The Quakers may have the least glamorous record in the regional, but they’re no stranger to the postseason, having made the tournament for the last six seasons, and actually opened last year’s tournament with a 2-0 record before slipping.

“There’s a lot of college baseball programs in this country that spend a lot of money on their programs that aren’t playing this weekend,” O’Connor said. “So, I told the team, first, that they earned something very special to be in the tournament and to be a top-16 team playing at home. That’s first and foremost.

“Secondly, I talked to them about what our preparation looks like. There’s a number of guys in the dugout that have been in this experience before but there’s a number that have not and need to understand how we prepare to get ready for Friday.

“Then, finally, that Penn is our focus. Let other people talk about potential matchups down the road and the regional. We don’t worry about that because we don’t know who our opponent is going to be. We have one opponent on Friday and that’s Penn.”

O’Connor said he’s excited for Virginia’s players to experience NCAA baseball at Disharoon Park because there are a number of them that haven’t had that experience, like freshman hitting sensation Henry Ford.

“I said last year after hosting the regional and super regional that this is why we expanded the stadium,” the coach said. “It’s for these kind of opportunities for our players and our fans. This weekend is going to be just like last weekend. We’ll play at noon and I imagine this place will be full and it’ll be electric. It’s a reward for the fans as much as for the players.”

Coming up later: A look at the Charlottesville field; With a power lineup, UVA is confident heading into the weekend; Home run record on the line; Can pitching staff lift Cavaliers through the weekend?