Coming into the 2013 season, the Virginia baseball team wasn't expected to earn its third national seed in the past four years. At least, not by many people outside the program.
"Outside of that locker room, the expectations weren't so high. I know that nobody outside of that locker room really believed in us," senior Jared King said Monday. "But everybody in there, we knew what kind of club we had, and we knew what we could accomplish. So I think that makes this even sweeter."
On Monday afternoon, King and his Virginia teammates learned they were the No. 6 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers open play in the Charlottesville Regional at 1 p.m. Friday against Army. UNC-Wilmington and Elon are the other two teams in the regional.
"It doesn't surprise me that we're in this position, because I felt coming into the start of the year that we had a lot of talent," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "It was just a matter of how consistent would they be. And in order to be a national seed you have to be very, very consistent throughout the entire year. It's not something that's just done over two weeks."
O'Connor's team enters NCAA regional play with a 47-10 record. His Cavaliers are one of just three programs nationally to host a regional round in each of the past four years. Virginia has reached the last 10 NCAA tournaments, and has hosted a regional in seven of those 10 seasons.
"It's pretty exciting," O'Connor said. "You start off with a group like this -- basically your entire infield is new, most of your rotation is new -- and for them to be in this position is really rewarding as a coach. And I'm sure as a player, too."
"We can't wait. Friday can't come soon enough," sophomore outfielder Brandon Downes said. "When we were inside, everyone was just all jittery and ready to go, and we finally figured out who we're going to play. And everyone just can't wait to get back out here on the field."
Elon (Southern Conference) and Army (Patriot League) both enter the Charlottesville Regional after winning their conference tournaments last weekend. UNCW won the CAA's regular season title, and earned an at-large bid in the 64-team NCAA field.
Virginia went 32-3 at Davenport Field during the regular season, including three-game sweeps of a pair of teams that will host their own NCAA regionals this weekend -- NC State and Florida State.
"We've just got to look at it as the same weekend it has been," said sophomore outfielder Derek Fisher. "We've had some of the best teams in the country come in here and play us this year. Being this year, and the teams that we've played, I think that it's really going to help us as this time goes forward."
King has been a member of all three Virginia teams to earn national seeds. The 2010 team lost a super regional at home against Oklahoma, while the 2011 team advanced to the College World Series in Omaha.
So the fifth-year senior knows what it takes to keep playing into mid-June.
"We're just going to have to play our brand of baseball," he said. "Our guys have done a great job all year of really not taking anything for granted, and focusing on the fundamentals. And I think if we just come out and play good, fundamental baseball, then we're going to have good success."