College baseball: Texas enters NCAAs as top seed
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009
By Dennis Waszak Jr.
NEW YORK ó The Texas Longhorns are honored to be the No. 1 team in the country as the top seed in the NCAA tournament. They would rather hold that distinction ó along with a championship trophy ó a few weeks from now at the College World Series.
Texas (41-13-1) will play host to one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals that begin Friday. It’s the second time the school, coached by Division I career victories leader Augie Garrido, has been the No. 1 overall seed.
“We know all too well that being named No. 1 by someone doesn’t get you anything,” Garrido said Monday. “You have to go play the games to earn the No. 1 that means something.”
Texas, second to Southern California with six national titles, has perhaps the deepest pitching staff with Chance Ruffin, Cole Green, Brandon Workman and closer Austin Wood. The Longhorns were also No. 1 overall in 2004, but the only top national seed to win the College World Series since the field was expanded to 64 teams was Miami in 1999. No top-eight seed has won it all since Rice in 2003.
The other national seeds, in order, are: Cal State Fullerton (42-14), LSU (46-16), North Carolina (42-16), Arizona State (44-12), UC Irvine (43-13), Oklahoma (41-18) and Florida (39-20).
“This is the fun time of the year,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “The first 56 games were a grind, but then you get to this point and enjoy yourself. This is the fun part. You know going in that you’re five consecutive wins away from going to Omaha. That’s exciting.”
The 16 regional winners move on to the best-of-three super regionals, beginning June 5. The eight super regional winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 13 in Omaha, Neb.
“We had an opportunity to fully vet and understand the teams that we had available to us ó the positives, the negatives ó and the things associated with them,” selection committee chairman Tim Weiser said. “At the end of the day, we felt comfortable with the field that we have.”
Coastal Carolina, Kansas and Dartmouth will join UNC, which is 9-0 at home in regional play over the past three seasons, in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels will face No. 4 seed Dartmouth (27-16) at 6 p.m. on Friday at Boshamer Stadium. The second-seeded Chanticleers (46-14) and third-seeded Jayhawks (37-22) open play at 2 p.m.
The Chapel Hill Regional champion will advance to face the winner of the Greenville Regional in the Super Regional round for the right to advance to Omaha.
East Carolina will make its 24th regional appearance and 10th in the last 11 years after earning a No. 1 seed.The Pirates (42-17) will play their first-ever postseason game at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium when they square off against No. 4 Binghamton (29-20) on Friday at 7 p.m. No. 2 South Carolina (38-21) will face No. 3 George Mason (42-12) at 3 p.m. Defending national champion Fresno State, the first team to win it all as a No. 4 seed in a bracket, will play UC Irvine in the first round of the Irvine, Calif., regional. UC Irvine is ranked No. 1 in most national polls but is in arguably the tournament’s most difficult bracket. It includes ACC champion Virginia and coach Tony Gwynn’s San Diego State squad, with ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the likely No. 1 overall draft pick.
Gwynn said there is no temptation to hold back Strasburg “because of the toughness of our bracket.”
“I watched Virginia play Florida State yesterday and they’ve got a good team,” Gwynn said. “They hit the ball, they’ve got good pitching. They’re a solid club. Irvine’s the 1 seed. They’ve been No. 1 for like the last five weeks, so we know they’re solid. And Fresno’s the defending national champion.”
The Big 12 ó Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M ó and SEC ó Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina and Vanderbilt ó each received eight berths.
The ACC had seven teams selected: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, UNC and Virginia.
The Hurricanes extended their NCAA record with the team’s 37th consecutive appearance, while Florida State is in for the 32nd straight year.
Binghamton, Cal Poly, Georgia State, Kansas State and Xavier are making their first NCAA tournament appearances. Mountain West champion Utah is in for the first time since 1960, while Boston College last made it in 1967. Dartmouth (1987), Gonzaga (1981) and Indiana (1996) are also back after long waits.
Among teams left out of the 64-team field were Eastern Illinois (36-14), New Mexico State (44-17), Rhode Island (37-20-1) and San Jose State (41-20). Meanwhile, Oklahoma State (32-22) received an at-large bid despite not making the Big 12 tournament. The Cowboys were rewarded for a strong RPI and a 22-19 record against top 100 teams.
“Certainly we realize we’re going to be criticized or supported for our decisions,” Weiser said. “But the process has worked well for us in the past, and it continues to work well. Until we come up with a better system, this is what we have to operate with.”