Every Memorial Day, the Virginia baseball team gathers to watch the nationally-televised selection show for the NCAA Tournament. And that show typically reveals the same thing each season: that the road to Omaha goes through Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers learned Monday that they're the No. 3 national seed in this year's 64-team tournament. UVa will open play in the Charlottesville Regional against Bucknell at 2 p.m. Friday at Davenport Field, with Arkansas and Liberty to follow at 7 p.m. Friday.
UVa and South Carolina are the only two programs in the country to be selected as NCAA Regional host sites in each of the past five seasons. In four of those five years, the Cavaliers have been a national seed.
"I think that we have something really special in college baseball going here," UVa coach Brian O'Connor said Monday.
"We take tremendous pride in what we've accomplished," junior pitcher/infielder Nick Howard said. "And I think sometimes we take it for granted that we're a host and a national seed. But I think that's a great accomplishment in itself."
"That's what we've done in this program, is we've tried to every year," said O'Connor. "Just be the model of consistency, and give our team a chance to play at this time of year, and advance on."
On Friday the Wahoos are matched up with No. 4 seed Bucknell, who got into the NCAA Tournament after winning the Patriot League championship. It's the first NCAA appearance for the Bison since the 2010 season.
Arkansas is the No. 2 seed in the regional, earning an at-large berth after a 38-23 season, including a 16-14 record in the SEC. The Razorbacks have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 13 years.
They're matched up with No. 3 seed Liberty, who went 41-16 this season, and earned the program's first-ever at-large NCAA bid after finishing the regular season on top of the Big South standings. The Flames were upset by Winthrop in the conference tournament.
UVa enters Friday's NCAA opener at 44-13 on the season, though the Wahoos have dropped four of their last six games, including a 1-2 performance last weekend at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
"I mean, I guess it's a good time to get all of our losses out of the way, before we use too many of them up," Howard joked. "But I think we'll be ready to play again this weekend, and we're looking forward to it."
"What we have to do as coaches and as players is just put the last weekend behind us," said O'Connor. "We've got a great ballclub. We've done a good job of handling that adversity all year. And we have the talent to do it, and we've just got to go out and relax and play."
On Monday, the Cavaliers dropped to No. 8 in the latest Baseball America national rankings. UVa began the season ranked No. 1 in the country, and spent most of the regular season on top of the poll.
But O'Connor admits that his program is now at a point where it's measured by what happens at this stage in the season.
"We understand what's at stake every year that it comes, this time of the year," he said. "And it's a matter of us just going out and playing good baseball for one weekend. And it starts Friday afternoon against Bucknell, and then we advance on from there."
"We're just excited to know, put a name to the opponent now. And I think we're all ready to get geared up and ready to go," said Howard. "I mean, all 64 teams have won something, either a conference championship or they've played in great conferences. So to play against the best, you're going to have to beat them."