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Titans to Start NCAA Title Run in Stillwater

May 24, 1994|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — Cal State Fullerton team is looking ahead to "a fresh experience," in the NCAA baseball regional playoffs at Stillwater, Okla., beginning Friday.

That's Coach Augie Garrido's view after Fullerton (41-13) was seeded second behind the host team, Oklahoma State, in pairings announced Monday.

"I think this will really be healthy for us going to a place we haven't played before and playing against teams we haven't played this season, " Garrido said. "I'm thankful for the new experience we'll be having. None of the early season stuff will mean anything."

Fullerton will face Northwestern State (44-13) of Natchitoches, La., at 1 p.m. (PDT) in their opening game of the double-elimination tournament. The other first-round games in the Midwest I Regional will send Oklahoma State (46-15) against Illinois State (30-27) and Texas Christian (37-20) against Memphis State (50-9).

Fullerton's selection as an at-large entry marks the team's fourth appearance in the playoffs in the last five years. The Titans played in NCAA regionals at Austin, Tex., in two of their last three appearances.

Fullerton was eliminated by two losses to USC last year in Austin after reaching the College World Series in 1990 and 1992.

The team unexpectedly was left out of the regional field in 1991, despite sharing the Big West championship with Fresno State. Fresno State won the automatic bid, and Fullerton was snubbed in favor of third-place Long Beach State.

The Titans also shared the Big West championship this season with Nevada and Long Beach State, but Nevada claimed the conference's automatic NCAA bid by winning two of three games in their series with both teams. The other two Big West teams also were seeded second, Nevada in the Austin regional behind Oklahoma and Long Beach State in the Wichita regional behind Georgia Tech.

Fullerton is ranked seventh in the nation by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Clemson is ranked No. 1 in both.

Garrido said he was surprised neither Pepperdine nor San Diego State were selected for the 48-team field. Garrido regarded that as another snub of West Coast baseball by the NCAA selection committee, which failed to award the West one of the eight regional sites this year. "Our universities also need to get more behind our baseball programs and realize the value of those programs, too," Garrido said.

The Cal State Fullerton players gathered at a restaurant near the campus Monday to watch the announcement on television.

"I'm really pumped up and ready to go," said second baseman Jeff Ferguson, who will go into the playoffs with a .388 average, best among Titan starters.

The playoffs will provide an opportunity for center fielder Dante Powell to bounce back from a regular season that fell below expectations. Powell is hitting .289, well below the .335 mark he posted a year ago as a sophomore and his .307 mark as a freshman.

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