UCLA seeded No. 2 overall in NCAA baseball tournament
UCLA played the toughest schedule in college baseball and won a share of the Pac-12 Conference title.
On Monday, the NCAA rewarded the Bruins by seeding them No. 2 nationally in the 64-team playoffs.
“It says a lot about our players and the job they did,” said UCLA Coach John Savage, whose team is 42-14. “The bar is about 35 wins on the West Coast. When you get to 40, it’s pretty unique.”
UCLA will host a regional, and Cal State Fullerton and Pepperdine will be on the road when the playoffs begin Friday.
Four-team double-elimination regionals will be played Friday through Monday, with winners advancing to best-of-three super regionals on June 8-11. The College World Series will be played June 15-26 in Omaha.
The top eight seeded teams are Florida, UCLA, Florida State, Baylor, Oregon, North Carolina, Louisiana State and South Carolina.
Stanford and Arizona, which are hosting regionals, and Oregon State are other Pac-12 schools in the playoffs.
UCLA opens against Creighton (26-28), the Missouri Valley Conference tournament champion. The regional also includes San Diego (40-15) and New Mexico (36-22).
UCLA outfielder Jeff Gelalich said the Bruins would benefit from having played in the College World Series two years ago and in a regional final at UCLA last season.
“That’s experience you don’t get anywhere else,” said Gelalich, who is batting .367 with nine home runs. “We’ve learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
In one of the tournament’s most intriguing story lines, Fullerton will play in a regional at Oregon, where former Fullerton coach George Horton has built an emerging power.
Fullerton (35-19), the Big West Conference champion, opens against Indiana State (41-17). Oregon (42-17) plays Austin Peay (38-22).
First-year Fullerton Coach Rick Vanderhook was a longtime assistant under Horton with the Titans and coached under Savage at UCLA the previous three seasons. He said he thought his team would be headed to the regional at Tucson. But after Fullerton defeated Long Beach State on Sunday to win the Big West title, he had an inkling that the NCAA would not pass up the opportunity to pit former colleagues against each other.
“George sent me a text last night to congratulate us,” Vanderhook said. “I sent one back saying, ‘See you in a couple of days.’”
Fullerton was the only Big West Conference team to make the tournament, the selection committee passing on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Long Beach State.
Pepperdine (34-21), the West Coast Conference champion, plays Michigan State (37-21) in the regional at Stanford (38-16), which also includes Fresno State (30-26).
“Your key guys have to play well in big situations,” said Pepperdine Coach Steve Rodriguez, a member of the Waves’ 1992 NCAA championship team. “We need them to do the same thing in the regional.”
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