The Washington Times - May 29, 2009, 11:42AM

In yesterday’s dead-tree edition, I wrote a bit about the possibility of Virginia facing San Diego State ace Stephen Strasburg in the NCAA baseball tournament tonight out in California.

While Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn is channeling his inner football coach and not saying who will start tonight, the reality is the Cavaliers have landed in a place with a lot of headaches.

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Even if they don’t face Strasburg tonight, there’s still a couple other teams out there that aren’t chopped liver: UC Irvive and Fresno State.

“If you’re a competitor, what more do you want than the No. 1 team in America, the No. 1 pitcher in the history of college baseball and the defending national champ,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said earlier this week. “It’s a tremendous challenge, no question. But if you’re a competitor, that’s what you want.”

O’Connor deserves a merit badge or something for how admirably he’s handled things all week. After all, the Cavaliers won the ACC tournament, have lost only four times all season by more than a run … and yet got shipped west for the second straight year and landed in a group of death.

O’Connor has transformed Virginia from second-division ACC team into postseason regular, and the youthful Cavaliers might have the goods to finally get through to the superregionals – even with things stacked the way they are.

“We’ve been in practically every ballgame in arguably the No. 1 conference in America,” O’Connor said. “This team is not going to back down from any of the challenges it’s presented with. They’ll respond.”

Here, by the way, is the Irvine regional’s schedule over the next few days (all games on ESPNU; times are EDT):

Friday

Game 1: No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 3 San Diego State, 7
Game 2: No. 1 UC Irvive vs. No. 4 Fresno State, 11

Saturday

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 7
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 11

Sunday

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 7
Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 11

Monday

Game 7: Repeat of Game 6 (if necessary), 11

Patrick Stevens