BASEBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT : USC, Long Beach St., Fullerton Awarded Berths

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mostly, college baseball teams in the West breathed sighs of relief Monday when the NCAA announced the 48-team field for the Division I playoffs.

USC, Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton were among 10 teams from the region picked for eight six-team, double-elimination regionals that will determine the field for the 48th College World Series at Omaha, Neb., June 3-11.

Stanford, Arizona State, Washington, Nevada, Santa Clara, Brigham Young and Fresno State also were selected.

Twenty-four teams earned automatic bids by winning a conference championship, conference tournament or a play-in against another conference champion. The other 24 teams received at-large berths based on their records and strength of schedule.

Schools in the West were bracing for the worst after the regional sites were announced last week. For the first time since the tournament adopted a regional format in 1975, no regionals are in the West.

USC, which has not advanced to Omaha since winning its 11th national title in 1978, will travel to the South Regional at Baton Rouge, La. The second-seeded Trojans (38-18) open Thursday against North Carolina Greensboro (37-16), which is making its first playoff appearance. The regional also includes defending national champion Louisiana State, the No. 1 seed; Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane and Fresno State.

USC played at Baton Rouge in the 1990 playoffs. The Trojans won their first three games before losing twice to LSU.

"We don't have any complaints," said USC Coach Mike Gillespie, whose team finished third in the Pacific 10 Southern Division. "I think (the regional) is very winnable. There's no reason to be intimidated by this deal. Obviously, LSU is LSU and it's their yard. . . . All in all, it's as much as we could have hoped for."

Long Beach State travels to the Midwest II Regional at Wichita, Kan., perhaps the deepest regional in the tournament. Second-seeded Long Beach (39-17), shooting for its fourth World Series appearance in six seasons under Coach Dave Snow, opens Friday against Washington (42-16) in a regional that also includes top-seeded Georgia Tech, Wichita State, West Coast Conference champion Santa Clara and Connecticut.

"It's nice to get a No. 2 seed, but even though Georgia Tech is No. 1 and we're No. 2, I still think it's Wichita State's regional," Snow said. "They've just come out of there so often."

Fullerton (41-13) is seeded second behind Oklahoma State (46-15) in the Midwest I Regional at Stillwater, Okla., and will open Friday against Northwestern State (44-13), one of four teams from Louisiana in the playoffs.

Stanford (36-22), the Pac-10 Southern Division champion, is seeded a surprisingly low fourth in the Central Regional at Austin, Tex., and will play Texas in its opener. The regional also includes top-seeded Oklahoma (42-17).

Arizona State (39-16), second in the Pac-10 Southern Division, is seeded third at the Mideast Regional at Knoxville, Tenn., and will open against Western Carolina (45-16) in a regional that also includes top-seeded Tennessee, North Carolina State, Wright State of Ohio and Northeastern of Massachusetts.

Other top-seeded teams include Miami (44-12) in the Atlantic Regional at Miami, Clemson (55-16) in the East Regional at Clemson, S.C., and Ohio State (48-7) in the Atlantic II Regional at Tallahassee, Fla.

Pepperdine (33-20) will sit out the playoffs for the first time since 1990. The Waves' chances suffered when teams such as the Citadel (31-32) won conference tournaments to earn automatic berths.

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