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The Regional Chase

April 11, 2003

Here’s how Baseball America editors Allan Simpson and John Manuel size up the 64-team field for this year’s NCAA Division I regionals. The regionals will be held at 16 sites May 30-June 1, with the winners advancing to eight super-regionals June 6-9. Seedings are indicated, with the host school in bold and 30 projected automatic qualifiers indicated by asterisks.

1. *Stanford

1. *Cal St. Fullerton

1. Arizona State

1. *Texas

2. Missouri

2. Arizona

2. *UNLV

2. Arkansas

3. UC Riverside

3. New Mexico State

3. *Minnesota

3. Houston

4. *Illinois-Chicago

4. *Loyola Mary.

4. *SE Missouri State

4. UT Arlington

 

1. *Rice

 

1. Long Beach State

 

1. Nebraska

 

1. Louisiana State

2. Texas A&M

2. Oklahoma State

2. Washington

2. Baylor

3. *Lamar

3. Southern California

3. *Wichita State

3. Tulane

4. *Central Conn. St.

4. *Oral Roberts

4. *Bucknell

4. *Southern

 

1. Mississippi State

 

1. *Auburn

 

1. Miami

 

1. *Florida State

2. *So. Mississippi

2. *South Alabama

2. Florida

2. Alabama

3. North Carolina

3. *Western Carolina

3. Fla. International

3. *Coastal Carolina

4. *Maine

4. *Marist

4. *Florida A&M

4. *Penn

 

1. Georgia Tech

 

1. *Florida Atlantic

 

1. N.C. State

 

1. *Notre Dame

2. *Va. Commonwealth

2. Clemson

2. *Richmond

2. Wake Forest

3. Mississippi

3. East Carolina

3. South Carolina

3. Indiana State

4. UNC Greensboro

4. Elon

4. UNC Wilmington

4. *Ball State

ANALYSIS

North Carolina State has turned a season of adversity into one of the best campaigns in school history. Ranked 14th at midseason, it is one of 16 teams projected by BA to be No. 1 seeds in the 64-team tournament; 14 of the 16 are projected to serve as regional hosts, including the Wolfpack.

The lack of a quality baseball facility prevented the Pack from ever bidding for a regional in the past and was a major factor in Ray Tanner’s decision to leave his alma mater for South Carolina in 1997. Tanner had a number of Wolfpack teams worthy of hosting a regional in his nine-year tenure, but dilapidated Doak Field was never deemed suitable for postseason play. That could change this year.

Much as the Wolfpack is enjoying a breakthrough year on the field, Doak Field has undergone a complete reconstruction this year. While it has forced the Pack to play 33 of its first 34 games off campus, it should be ready for regional play in late May.

While N.C. State’s hopes to play host to a regional will be played out in the coming weeks, the rest of the projected regional-host sites are familiar names, starting with defending national champion Texas.

• The ACC has seven of its nine teams seriously in the running for regional bids–even Virginia, which last advanced in 1996. The Cavaliers were off to a 20-10 start, with all of their losses coming to ranked teams like Auburn (0-3), Clemson (1-2), Florida State (0-3) and Richmond (1-2). Their biggest challenge will come in the ACC, which has had six teams ranked at one time or another this season.

• The Pacific-10 is another top-heavy conference, with six teams seriously looking for regional bids. The league hasn’t received more than four bids since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999. BA calls for five Pac-10 clubs to make it. We left California out of our 64-team field, in part because of a poor non-conference ranking and difficult remaining league schedule. We went instead for injury-riddled Southern California, which was just 15-16 against a grueling schedule. We expect the Trojans, ranked No. 6 in the preseason, to bounce back in the second half with the return of injured righthanders Anthony Reyes and Brett Bannister.

• The Big West Conference’s two premier programs, second-ranked Cal State Fullerton and 10th-ranked Long Beach State, should earn No. 1 seeds, but it’s unlikely that both will be regional hosts. Accordingly, the 49ers will hit the road.

• Florida Atlantic, the projected Atlantic Sun Conference champion, will be forced to play on the road as a No. 1 seed, and the 12-team conference may get no at-large bids; it got two in each of the last three years. Traditional league powers Central Florida and Stetson have stumbled and two recent additions to Division I, Belmont and Gardner-Webb, look like they will fall just short.

TOP 25: PRESEASON VS. MIDSEASON

Rank

Then

Now

Skinny

1.

Georgia Tech

Rice

As 30-game win streak nears record level, only injuries seem to stand in Owls way.

2.

Rice

Cal State Fullerton

Pitching depth tested by injuries and suspension, but freshmen crop has stepped up.

3.

Stanford

Florida State

’Noles doing it all without a dominant season from sophomore SS Stephen Drew.

4.

Florida State

Stanford

Revamped infield, staff have responded behind freshmen John Mayberry, Mark Romanczuk.

5.

Texas

Auburn

Lack of a dominant starter mitigated by deep, varied bullpen and solid 1-9 lineup.

6.

Southern California

Mississippi State

Senior SS Matthew Maniscalco has been a steadying influence on offense, defense.

7.

Wake Forest

Arizona State

Are Devils for real or not? They went just 6-6 after a blistering 28-1 pre-conference start.

8.

Arizona State

Nebraska

New coaching staff, but LHP Aaron Marsden, 1B Matt Hopper, CF Jeff Leise showing way.

9.

Louisiana State

Texas

Last year, Huston Street bailed out bullpen; this year, he’s added third base to his agenda.

10.

Baylor

Long Beach State

1-2 rotation punch of Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver needs more offensive support.

11.

Houston

Louisiana State

Not as potent as in past, but freshman RHP Justin Meier, SS Aaron Hill have been steady.

12.

Notre Dame

Miami

Talented freshmen Gaby Sanchez and Ryan Braun, solid offense mask average rotation.

13.

Cal State Fullerton

Georgia Tech

BA’s preseason No. 1 team is talented, but it hasn’t put all three facets together yet.

14.

South Carolina

North Carolina State

One of nation’s biggest surprises, Wolfpack relies heavily on RHPs Devine, Rogers, Sterry.

15.

Richmond

Florida Atlantic

Veteran rotation led by RHP Danny Core, LHP Randy Beam dominating Atlantic Sun.

16.

Long Beach State

Baylor

Bears have intriguing arms, explosive hitting, but midseason slump hurt Big 12 title hopes.

17.

Mississippi State

Notre Dame

Pitching of RHPs John Axford and Chris Niesel has offset loss of ace Grant Johnson.

18.

Stetson

Clemson

If someone joins LHP Tyler Lumsden as top starter and 1B Michael Johnson hits, watch out.

19.

Clemson

Texas A&M

Balanced team reaping benefits of talented juco transfers like RHP/OF Scott Beerer.

20.

Nebraska

Richmond

With RHP Tim Stauffer and other holdovers, Spiders should be a lot more dominating.

21.

Auburn

Nevada-Las Vegas

Celebrity corner infielders Fernando Valenzuela Jr., Patrick Dobson also key offense.

22.

North Carolina

Oklahoma State

Deep pitching staff has gotten offensive support from sophomore C Jason Jaramillo.

23.

South Alabama

Southern Mississippi

Power bats of OFs Clint King, Jeff Cook have Golden Eagles tied for Conference USA lead.

24.

Florida Atlantic

Wake Forest

Lack of pitching aside from RHP Kyle Sleeth has hampered Demon Deacons.

25.

Va. Commonwealth

Missouri

Diminutive OF Jayce Tingler, sophomore RHP Justin James keys first ranking since ’97.

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