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Road to Omaha Goes Through Northeast


For the first time in 10 years, the road to the College World Series will go through the Northeast.

Rutgers, the Big East regular season champion, was selected Monday as one of 16 host schools for the 64-team Division I college baseball tournament. The regional is the first in the Northeast since the NCAA put one in Waterbury, Conn., in 1990.

"This is an excellent opportunity to showcase the Rutgers University baseball team, as well as Northeast baseball in general," said Robert Mulcahy, the university's athletic director.

The four-team double-elimination regional will be played at Yogi Berra Stadium in Upper Montclair, N.J., when the tournament begins May 26. All regionals are played on campus fields, except for Rutgers and Oklahoma. The regional in Oklahoma City will be played at Bricktown Ballpark.

One of the NCAA's goals when it expanded the tournament from 48 to 64 teams beginning last season was to increase national interest. Also, the minimum bid to be a host was lowered from $50,000 to $35,000.

"After lowering the bar to where it's feasible for teams in the Northeast, I'm hoping that Rutgers is just the beginning of something good," said Dick Rockwell, chairman of the NCAA Division I selection committee. "Connecticut also put a bid in, so that's very encouraging."

The other regional hosts are Arizona State, Baylor, Cal State-Fullerton, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana State, Miami, Minnesota, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Stanford.

Rutgers, Cal State-Fullerton and Louisiana-Lafayette are playing host to regionals for the first time, and Minnesota has its first since 1977.

"Those places are all question marks," Rockwell said. "Attendance is extremely important. It will be a real trial test for those schools."

South Carolina, which last played host to a regional in 1985, was overlooked last season, but its 51-7 record before Friday's game against Kentucky and No. 1 ranking couldn't be denied this season.

Two conference champs that did not get regionals were Wichita State and Central Florida.

"We like to take conference winners, if at all possible," Rockwell said. "But we don't go in saying we'll take 'X' amount from a certain conference. We just let the ball roll."

Miami, the defending national champion, earned its fourth straight regional and 17th overall, while LSU earned its 11th straight.

The 64-team tournament field will be announced Monday. The winners of each regional advance to one of eight best-of-three super regionals. The super-regional winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., which starts June 9.

PAC-10 SHOWDOWN: Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA all have their sights set on winning the Pac-10.

Each team is in contention to win the conference, which does not have a postseason tournament to determine the automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.

UCLA (34-22, 16-5 Pac-10) plays at Stanford (40-12, 15-6) in a three-game series featuring four of the nation's top pitchers: the Bruins' Josh Karp (9-1, 4.13 ERA) and Rob Henkel (6-2, 4.31); and the Cardinal's Jason Young (7-0, 3.42) and Justin Wayne (11-3, 3.10).

UCLA last won the Pac-10 title in 1986, while Stanford has won three straight. The Cardinal have won nine of the last 10 against the Bruins.

The Sun Devils (40-12, 15-6), No. 1 in the country in scoring, play three at Arizona and look for their first Pac-10 title since 1993.

Arizona State holds tiebreakers over Stanford and UCLA, having won two of three against each.

DUGOUT DECISIONS: The coaching carousel has begun.

Pat Harrison agreed to resign Wednesday after four seasons as Mississippi's coach. The Rebels finished 30-25 but just 12-17 in the Southeastern Conference.

After the Rebels lost six of their last nine conference games, athletic director John Shafer said the program needed a change.

"He felt the club needed to go one way and I understand where he wants to go," said Harrison, 116-107 at Mississippi. "We didn't get to that level quickly enough. We needed to go further than we did in the time we were here."

Memphis fired Jeff Hopkins on Tuesday after going 239-207 in eight seasons at his alma mater.

Detroit-Mercy coach Bob Miller announced Tuesday that he was retiring after 36 years as Titans coach. Miller's record is 896-751-2 going into this weekend's Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament.

Regis hired former Briar Cliff College coach Dan McDermott on Thursday to replace Tom Dedin, who resigned.

Les Murakami, 64 next month, said Tuesday he will return for one more season as coach at Hawaii. He began coaching at the school in 1971.

The Rainbows were 28-28 this season and haven't played in the postseason since 1993.

AROUND THE HORN: Todd Faulkner broke Auburn's single-season record with his 22nd home run in a 9-5 victory over Mississippi State last Sunday. Faulkner moved past Frank Thomas (1987) and Josh Etheredge (1998). ... Arizona State coach Pat Murphy won his 600th game in the Sun Devils' 17-5 victory over Washington last Saturday. ... Darren Wood became the first Alabama player to hit for the cycle twice in a career in the Crimson Tide's 14-0 victory at LSU last Sunday. Wood, who had one against Southern Miss last season, is the third Alabama player to hit for the cycle, joining Frank Menechino (1993) and Andy Phillips (1999).

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