For the first time in two years, hope of playing in the College World Series is alive.
For UC Irvine and UCLA, that preseason dream came true as they were among the 64 teams announced Monday morning for the NCAA baseball tournament.
And for Long Beach State, that dream will have to wait at least another year as the dirt bags look inside out.
UC Irvine, which won a Big West Conference record of 32 games and took the league’s NCAA automatic postseason seat on Friday, will head north to play four-team at Stanford Regional. The anteaters (40-16 total) face Nevada (25-18) on Friday at 6 p.m. Stanford (33-14), placed fifth overall, face the state of North Dakota (41-17) in the other half of the region .
Including an unprecedented four-game home game against rivals Cal State Fullerton, UCI won their last five games to beat Big West 32-8. The Anteaters had never won a home series or swept a series against the Titans.
UCLA, meanwhile, is traveling east to Texas to play in the Lubbock Regional. The Bruins (35-18) will open against North Carolina (27-25) on Friday at 4:00 p.m. and number 8 Texas Tech (36-15) will face Army (28-23).
UCLA ended its regular season by winning its last four games, including a three-game sweep of No. 23 in the state of Arizona in Tempe, and finished fourth in the Pac-12 at 18:12. The conference placed six teams in the tournament – fifth seeded Pac-12 champion Arizona (39-15), Stanford, 14th seeded Oregon (37-14), Arizona State (32-30) and Oregon State (34- 22). .
Long Beach State (28-15) received none of the 34 bids despite running 16-3 to end the regular season and finishing third in the Big West with 26-14.
Aware that they were a bubble team, the dirtbags weren’t even listed among the top four teams. Baylor, Pittsburgh, Georgia, and Ball State – in that order – will be the first teams to replace any team unable to play their regional league because the COVID-19 testing protocols have not been completed.
The Big West placed two teams in the tournament, with runner-up UC Santa Barbara (39-18) being revealed as one of the final teams. The gauchos will travel to Arizona to play in the Tucson Regional.
Arkansas was rewarded Monday for its dominant run by the SEC and landed the No. 1 national seed, the third tournament in a row that Arkansas finished in the top 8 national seeds.
The winners of the 16 Regionals advance to eight Best-of-Three Super Regionals. These winners move on to the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The top eight national seeds are sure to host Super Regionals if they win their Regionals.
The national seeds to Arkansas: Texas (42-15), Tennessee (45-16), Vanderbilt (40-15), Arizona, TCU (40-17), Mississippi State (40-15), and Texas Tech.
Vanderbilt, which is making its best SEC tournament appearance for the 15th time in a row, will be aiming for its third national championship since 2014 after winning the title two years ago. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no tournament in 2020.
Seeds nine through 16 are Stanford, Notre Dame (30-11), Old Dominion (42-14), Mississippi (41-19), East Carolina (41-15), Oregon, Florida (38-20), and Louisiana Tech ( 40-18).
The SEC led all conferences with nine teams in the field, followed by ACC (eight), Pac-12 (six), Big 12 and Conference USA (four) and Big Ten (three).
Stetson’s Sporting Director Jeff Altier, chairman of the Division I baseball committee, said different planning strategies made selecting large teams extremely difficult due to the pandemic.
Altier said the opinions of the regional advisory boards were heavily weighted in the decision making process. Usually the RPI, or Rating Percentage Index, helps the committee decipher the teams’ comparative strengths, but it hasn’t been as useful this year as several conferences didn’t play outside of their leagues.
“It was an incredibly difficult year,” said Altier. “Nobody has experienced COVID before. We consider the RPI to be a tremendous metric to help us evaluate, and in a year where you can’t all play at the conferences, as you usually can, choosing will be difficult. ”