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Format for 2021 College World Series explained

The last eight teams head to Omaha on Saturday to find a national champion. It’s double-elimination, and then more double-elimination.

The Tennessee bench gives Tennessee’s Jordan Beck the Daddy hat during game two of the Knoxville Super Regional between the Tennessee Volunteers and the LSU Tigers held at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

If you’re unfamiliar with the College World Series, the format can be a bit confusing. We’ll make it as easy as we can here.

There are two groups of four teams, and since there’s no re-seeding anywhere in the 64-team NCAA Baseball Championship bracket, you’ll often see what look like unusual matchups.

For example No. 1 Arkansas will be watching on TV next week because of a shocking upset by unranked North Carolina State in Fayetteville in their Super Regional. That means NC State inherits the No. 1 seed path, and they’ll play the No. 9 seed Stanford Cardinal to open the event. Stanford beat No. 8 Texas Tech in the Lubbock Super Regional.

There were 16 seeded teams to start the event, and six of them made it to Omaha. NC State and Virginia are the two unseeded teams in Omaha. The Wolfpack beat No. 1 Arkansas in the Supers and the Cavaliers stopped No. 11 Old Dominion in the Regional and then also-unseeded Dallas Baptist in the Super Regional.

What is the CWS bracket in 2021?

There are two brackets in Omaha of four teams each. They are:

Bracket 1

No. 9 Stanford
No. 4 Vanderbilt
NC State
No. 5 Arizona

Bracket 2

No. 3 Tennessee
No. 2 Texas
Virginia
No. 7 Mississippi State

The better-seeded teams will be the home teams and bat last for the opening games in Omaha.

Game 1 Saturday, June 19: NC State vs. Stanford, 2 p.m. ET
Game 2 Saturday, June 19: Arizona vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET

Game 3 Sunday, June 20: Virginia vs. Tennessee, 2 p.m. ET
Game 4 Sunday, June 20: Mississippi State vs. Texas, 7 p.m ET

The goal in any double-elimination baseball event is always, always, always win the first two games. Because then another team will have to beat you twice in a row to keep you from advancing. And that other team will have been forced to play an extra game to even get in that position.

CWS schedule

Each bracket consists of six or seven games, depending on who wins the sixth game where a 2-0 team always faces a 2-1 team.

Here’s how Bracket 1 from this year will play out:

Game 1: NC State vs. Stanford
Game 2: Arizona vs. Vanderbilt

Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2

Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4
Game 6: Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5

Game 7 (if necessary): Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5 (only played if winner of Game 5 also wins Game 6).

Do this process for both Bracket 1 and Bracket 2, and you’ll find the two teams that will play in the CWS Finals starting on Monday, June 28.

The CWS Finals are a bit easier: Best two-out-of-three takes the trophy.

So who’s the home team?

Finding the “home” team and who bats last can be a bit complicated.

If in the opening game of the tournament you were the road team, and your opponent was the home team, you’ll flip statuses when you face each other. That means the team that hasn’t had a chance to be the home team yet will do so when possible.

Here’s the long version you’ll need as we get to Games 5, 6 and 7 in each bracket.

Step 1: The team has been the home team fewer times during the tournament becomes the home team.

Step 2): If both teams were the home team the same number of times, count the number of times each team was the visiting team during the tournament. The team that was the visiting team more often during the tournament becomes the home team.

Step 3: If both teams were the home team and visiting team the same number of times and the teams met previously during the tournament, the visitor in the immediately preceding game between the two teams becomes the home team.

Step 4: If both teams were the home team and visiting team the same number of times and the teams did not previously meet during the tournament, the team that was the visitor in its most recent, preceding game becomes the home team.

Step 5: If both teams were the home team and visiting team the same number of times, the teams did not previously meet during the tournament, and both teams were the visitor (or home team) in their most recent, preceding game, then the home team is decided by a coin flip.

TL:DR: The school that’s been the home team the least percentage of the time in the tournament between the two teams gets to bat last. If it’s tied, flip a coin.

This applies on the way to the CWS Finals as well, as the higher-seeded team will be at home for Game 1 and on the road for Game 2. If a Game 3 is needed, they’ll flip a coin to see who bats last.