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USC Is 1 of 16 Sites Picked by NCAA to Host Playoffs

College baseball: Stanford is other site in California. Teams won't be announced until next Monday.

May 18, 1999|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

USC was named one of 16 NCAA regional baseball tournament sites Monday, but it left an interesting question for the selection committee: Which team will be seeded No. 1 there?

That won't be resolved until next Monday, when the committee sets the 64-team field, expanded this year from 48 teams.

USC, the defending national champion, finished second in the Pacific-10 Conference behind Stanford, and is ranked 14th nationally. But the Trojans (33-23) have the the most losses of any top-20 team and might cause the selection committee concern about giving USC the top spot.

"[USC] may be a No. 1 seed, but it's questionable and debatable," said Dick Rockwell, chairman of the NCAA Division I baseball committee. "The bracket is just going to have to play itself out before we know."

Cal State Fullerton (44-11) appears in the running to be one of the top eight seeded teams. Pepperdine (42-12) also might be in contention to be seeded No. 1 in one of the regionals, depending on the outcome of its weekend series against Loyola Marymount, which will decide the West Coast Conference's automatic berth.

Geographically, Fullerton and Pepperdine appear to be possibilities to be seeded No. 1 at USC if the Trojans aren't. But Rockwell said a team from outside the region also might be sent to Southern California. "The integrity of the bracket is the most important thing," Rockwell said.

The Titans lost two of three games to Long Beach State last weekend in their final regular-season series, dropping from third to sixth in Baseball America's rankings. Pepperdine is 12th.

The other West Coast tournament will be at Stanford (40-13), which will host a regional for the fourth consecutive year.

Six schools will host for the first time: Arkansas (37-19), Baylor (43-12), Houston (35-21), Ohio State (46-10), Wake Forest (39-13) and Notre Dame (41-14).

Arkansas is one of four Southeastern Conference schools selected to host. Alabama (42-14), Auburn (41-14) and Louisiana State (36-19) also were chosen. Auburn will host for the first time since 1978. Baylor is one of three Big 12 Conference sites, joining Texas A&M (44-12) and Texas Tech (40-13).

Other sites chosen were Florida State (46-10), Miami (39-12) and Wichita State (53-12). Florida State was picked for the 15th time in 17 years.

Notre Dame is the only host team not ranked among the nation's top 25 teams.

"The interesting thing will be to see which teams will be sent to our tournament, and how strict the NCAA will be about keeping it more along geographical lines," USC Coach Mike Gillespie said. "I think you could make a case for us being seeded No. 1, but we couldn't complain if we're not, considering our overall record.

"But it's good news for us to be able to host, and for college baseball fans in Southern California to have a tournament here."

It will be the first regional in the Southland since the Trojans were hosts in 1991.

Gillespie said he expects Fullerton to be sent out of the area. "I expect Fullerton to be one of the eight national seeded teams," Gillespie said. Those eight teams will be assured of not playing each other before the College World Series. Teams from the same conference will not be put in the same regional.

Under the NCAA's new format, the bracket for the full tournament, including the College World Series, will be set when the regional pairings are announced Monday. In the past, the teams have been reseeded after the regionals.

The four-team regionals will be played May 28-30, with the winners meeting in two-team, best-of-three super-regionals June 4-6. Winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, June 11-19.

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