UCLA closing pitcher David Berg, left, hugs catcher Shane Zeile after the… (Jason Redmond / Associated…)
The NCAA baseball selection committee appears to be having an off season.
The 64-team tournament started nearly three weeks ago with eight seeded teams. Only three remain — No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 4 Louisiana State. All three came out of the weekend in the losers' bracket at the College World Series.
UCLA and North Carolina State, who play Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Stadium, were not projected to be here. Yet both are two victories shy of going to the best-of-three final.
"Well, certainly there's parity throughout college baseball," UCLA Coach John Savage said. "There are just a lot of good players. You know, 25, 30 years ago maybe they're at USC and Texas and that's it. Now they're really spread throughout the country."
As a result, seeded teams have been like endangered species.
Oregon, seeded eighth, was eliminated at home in regional play. No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 5 Cal State Fullerton, No. 6 Virginia and No. 7 Florida State went bust in the super-regionals.
"There are probably over 100 teams that could easily be in the top 64 when the selection show picks the teams," North Carolina State Coach Elliott Avent said. "Of those 64, maybe 40 could get to the final 16. Of the 16 teams that played last weekend, I'm certain we all feel that any of the other eight teams could be here instead of us."
That has carried over to the World Series.
Top-seeded North Carolina was blitzed by North Carolina State, 8-1, Sunday. LSU lost, 2-1, in the evening game, becoming just another how'd-they-do-that victim in UCLA's rearview mirror.
The Bruins have won 12 games in which they scored three or fewer runs. They are 16-2 in one-run games.
"I think we believe in what we do, and I think we realized that we just need to get a couple of runs and we can stay in the game," Savage said. "So we've been fortunate. But good teams create their own breaks a lot of times."
Oregon State was sent to the losers' bracket by Mississippi State when Danny Hayes' drive fell a foot short of being a three-run home run with two out in the ninth inning.
"I saw four good teams [Saturday] and four good teams [Sunday]," Savage said after the win over LSU. "So it's basically one day down in each bracket. I think anybody can win this. I think we felt that going in. And I think it's happening. I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to seeds at this stage. Anybody you play is going to be really good. So I don't really get caught up in it, and neither does our team.
"So on to the next round."