When UCLA, the Pacific 10 Southern Division champion, became the first team eliminated from last year's West Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Coach Gary Adams said the Bruins would have been better off playing in Maine.
Adams said that UCLA, which was favored to win the tournament, probably would have been more relaxed playing somewhere else, that there was too much pressure on the Bruins because they were expected to win on their home field.
Well, Adams will find out this season if his team will fare better in a regional away from home. No, UCLA isn't going all the way to Maine for the Northeast Regional. Actually, the Bruins won't have to travel very far at all.
UCLA, runner-up to Stanford, received an at-large berth in the West II Regional at Tempe, Ariz. The Bruins won't have it any easier though, because the West II figures to be one of the toughest of the eight regionals.
Joining UCLA are West Coast Athletic Conference champion Pepperdine, Western Athletic Conference champion Hawaii and two other at-large teams from the Pac-10 Southern Division--Arizona State and defending national champion Arizona. Southwest Missouri State, an independent, rounds out the field.
The double-elimination tournament will start Friday. UCLA (37-23-1) meets Hawaii (44-17), Pepperdine (46-10-3) plays Arizona (34-24), and Arizona State (36-25) faces Southwest Missouri State (38-12). The winner will advance to the College World Series at Omaha, beginning May 29.
Stanford is the site of the West I Regional. Joining Stanford are Washington State, Pac-10 Northern Division champion; Wichita State, Missouri Valley Conference champion; Oral Roberts, Midwestern Collegiate Conference titlist, and two at-large teams, Minnesota of the Big Ten and UC Santa Barbara of the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.
In the first round Friday, Stanford (44-16) plays Minnesota (36-23), Washington State (42-17) faces Wichita State (58-18) and Santa Barbara (30-23-2) meets Oral Roberts (45-17).
Pepperdine, Stanford and PCAA champion Cal State Fullerton are among the eight seeded teams in the 48-team field. Seeded teams do not play in the same regional, so Fullerton was placed in the South II Regional at New Orleans. The Titans (42-15) play Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Southern (30-18) Thursday.
The Division I regional field, which included 40 teams last season, expanded to 48 teams one year earlier than originally planned. A new College World Series format will go into effect in 1988.
As part of the new format, all eight regionals will have six teams. The eight winners will go to Omaha and be put into four-team divisions for separate double-elimination tournaments. The division winners then will meet in a one-game playoff for the NCAA title.
This season, as in previous years, the eight regional champions will compete in a double-elimination tournament with the winner becoming the national champion.
The regional format started in 1975 with 32 teams and there were eight four-team regionals. This is the fifth time the field has expanded. It went from 32 to 34 in 1976, to 36 in 1982, to 38 in 1985 and to 40 last year.
Of the eight new berths, seven went to at-large teams and an automatic berth went to the champion of the Trans America Conference. So now there are 26 automatic berths for conference champions and 22 spots for at-large teams.
Add West II Regional: The UCLA-Hawaii game is a rematch of last year's West Regional opener won by Hawaii, 6-3. The Rainbows scored twice in the eighth and three times in the ninth to upset the Bruins.
Paul Brown, a 6-foot 5, 220-pound sophomore left-hander with a herky-jerky motion, limited UCLA to six hits, including three homers. He outpitched ace right-hander Alex Sanchez, who yielded 7 hits, 6 walks and 5 earned runs to lose for only the third time in 19 decisions.
Brown is back and Hawaii Coach Les Murakami has a good memory, so he'll probably start. The Bruins and Rainbows split four games in Honolulu earlier this season.
This is only UCLA's fourth postseason appearance. The Bruins are 4-6, and have lost four straight--two to Fullerton in 1979 and the two last season to Hawaii and Loyola Marymount, 12-10. The Rainbows are making their seventh postseason appearance.
Pepperdine, making its 14th postseason appearance, has been in three straight and five since 1979. The Waves have lost in the finals the last three times--to Stanford in 1983 and 1985, and to Arizona last season.
Arizona State, which finished third in the Pac-10 Southern Division as a result of sweeping Arizona last weekend, is in its ninth regional, but first since 1984. The Sun Devils have won seven and their record is 36-5.
Arizona, which got a bid despite finishing fourth in the conference, is making its third straight postseason appearance and will be trying for its third straight victory. Last year the Wildcats won the Central Regional at Austin, Tex., beating San Diego State, Texas and Pepperdine twice.
Add West I Regional: Stanford won its fourth Pac-10 Southern Division title in the last five years. The Cardinal, which hasn't finished lower than second since 1980, is making their seventh consecutive postseason appearance. Texas, Oklahoma State, Miami (Fla.) and Florida State are the only other teams with similar streaks.
Santa Barbara, third in the PCAA, is appearing in a regional for only the fourth time, but third in the last five years. The Gauchos have one of the poorest records in the regional field, but they played one of the toughest schedules in the country.
College Baseball Notes
California Collegiate Athletic Assn. champion Cal State Dominguez Hills, which swept the Division II West Regional last weekend, beating Cal State Chico, 12-1, and Cal State Northridge, 5-1 and 6-3, makes its first trip to the Division II World Series. The six-team, double-elimination tournament at Montgomery, Ala., starts Friday, but the Toros (42-13) open Saturday night against Columbus (Ga.) College (37-10), the South Atlantic Regional winner. That should suit Dominguez Hills just fine because its record on Saturday is 14-2. The Toros are one of the hottest teams in the country, having won 12 of their last 13, 16 of 18 and 32 of 38. . . . Senior right-hander Mike Aspray raised his record to 11-3 and lowered his earned-run average to 2.76 with a four-hitter in Saturday's 5-1 win over Northridge. . . . Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura, who set an NCAA record last Friday night by hitting safely in 48 straight games, extended the streak to 50 games in his final at-bat Sunday night when the Cowboys beat Oklahoma, 9-6, to win the Big Eight tournament. Ventura, who had grounded out twice, flied out twice and was walked intentionally, had a run-scoring single during the Cowboys' four-run 11th inning. Ventura, a sophomore third baseman from Righetti High in Santa Maria, was first team on the All-Southern Section 3-A team in 1985. . . . Oklahoma State (51-10) is one of the eight seeded teams and plays Western Carolina in the Mideast Regional at Starkville, Miss. . . . UCLA has hit 105 home runs in 61 games. The Pac-10 record is 110 set by Arizona State in 1981. The Bruins have nine grand slam homers, one shy of Florida State's NCAA record set last season.