Brent Yarina, Senior Editor, June 2, 2015

If the college baseball world didn't believe before, it has to following NCAA regional action.

[ MORE: View the official NCAA tournament bracket ]

The Big Ten can play baseball, there's no doubt about it.

On the heels of a strong regular season that yielded a conference-record five NCAA tournament teams, the Big Ten opened regional play 5-0 on its way to finishing 11-7 (.611) and pushing two teams through to the Super Regionals.

Those two teams are Big Ten regular-season champ Illinois, which swept its way through the Champaign Regional, and Big Ten tourney runner-up Maryland, which twice knocked off top overall seed UCLA in the Los Angeles Regional.

"I think two teams is incredible," BTN analyst Danan Hughes said. "Having Indiana be so successful (the previous two seasons) set the foundation for this time right now. That's the true testament to the growth and success of this conference."

It wasn't just Illinois and Maryland, though. Iowa and Michigan advanced to their respective regional final, and Indiana won its opening game.

That's quite the statement, Big Ten. Amazingly, it pales in comparison to what Illinois and Maryland can do for their programs and Big Ten baseball on the tournament's second weekend.

Opponents Vanderbilt and Virginia are that good, that respected. In fact, they played for last season's NCAA title, which the former took in three games, and, other than Vanderbilt in 2005, they've both made the NCAA tourney every year since 2004.

The Illini, fresh off the program's first regional championship, draw the reigning national champs in a best-of-three series at Illinois Field. The Terrapins, making their second consecutive Super Regional appearance, travel to former ACC rival Virginia for a best-of-three series.

Win four combined games, and the Big Ten will have multiple teams in the College World Series for the first time. Send one team to Omaha, and the Big Ten will have a representative for the second time in three years (Indiana, 2013). Before then, the Big Ten hadn't put a team in the CWS since Barry Larkin and Michigan in 1984.

"This is what we all wanted to see," Hughes said, "and that itself will be huge for recruiting and popularity across the landscape of college baseball.

"I wish we had three teams, but two is huge, especially if they both make it to Omaha."

Maryland opens the Big Ten's Super Regional action at 4 p.m. ET Friday.


VANDERBILT (45-19) at ILLINOIS (50-8-1)

What to watch: Two of the top prospects in the upcoming 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft figure to face off at least once, in Illinois closer Tyler Jay and Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, the Most Outstanding Player of last season's CWS.
Factoid: Illinois is 25-2 at home, an Illinois Field record, including 19 consecutive wins, the nation's longest active streak.
2015 stats:;
Twitter: @IlliniBaseball; @VandyBaseball
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MARYLAND (42-22) at VIRGINIA (37-22)

What to watch: LaMonte Wade. Few, if any, players are hotter than Maryland's center fielder. The Los Angeles Regional?s Most Outstanding Player, Wade went 6-for-15 with two home runs, two runs and two RBI, to go along with stellar defense, both with the arm (see here, and here) and the glove (see here).
These two teams, longtime ACC rivals, met in last season's Super Regional, also played at Davenport Field in Charlottesville, Virginia, with the Cavaliers winning in three games.
@TerpsBaseball; @UVABaseball
2015 stats:;