NEW YORK — The Texas Longhorns will have to overcome history if they hope to win a seventh College World Series title.
Texas (41-13-1) was selected as the top national seed for the NCAA Division I baseball tournament Monday, a distinction that hasn’t previously guaranteed postseason success. The only No. 1 national seed to win a title since the field was expanded to 64 teams was Miami in 1999, and no top-eight national seed has won it all since Rice in 2003.
“It’s an honor to be the No. 1 seed, but we know all too well that being named No. 1 by someone doesn’t get you anything,” said coach Augie Garrido, the Division I leader in career victories. “You have to go play the games to earn the No. 1 that means something.”
The Big 12 champion Longhorns, who were also the No. 1 national seed in 2004, will host one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals that begin Friday. Texas, second to Southern California with six national titles, has perhaps the country's deepest pitching staff with Chance Ruffin, Cole Green, Brandon Workman and closer Austin Wood.
The other national seeds, in order, are: Cal State Fullerton (42-14), LSU (46-16), North Carolina (42-16), Arizona State (44-12), UC Irvine (43-13), Oklahoma (41-18) and Florida (39-20).
“This is the fun time of the year,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “The first 56 games were a grind, but then you get to this point and enjoy yourself. This is the fun part. You know going in that you're five consecutive wins away from going to Omaha. That’s exciting.”
The 16 regional winners move on to the best-of-three super regionals, beginning June 5. The eight super regional winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 13 in Omaha, Neb.
“We had an opportunity to fully vet and understand the teams that we had available to us — the positives, the negatives — and the things associated with them,” selection committee chairman Tim Weiser said. “At the end of the day, we felt comfortable with the field that we have.”
In perhaps the tournament’s toughest bracket, defending national champion Fresno State, the first team to win it all as a No. 4 seed, will play top-ranked UC Irvine in the first round of the Irvine, Calif., regional. It includes ACC champion Virginia and coach Tony Gwynn’s San Diego State squad, with ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the likely No. 1 overall draft pick.
Gwynn said the Aztecs will likely follow their usual practice of leading off a series with Strasburg, who’s 13-0 with a 1.24 ERA. He said there’s no temptation to hold back Strasburg “because of the toughness of our bracket.”
“I watched Virginia play Florida State (Sunday) and they’ve got a good team,” Gwynn said. “They hit the ball, they've got good pitching. They’re a solid club. Irvine’s the 1 seed. They’ve been No. 1 for like the last five weeks, so we know they’re solid. And Fresno’s the defending national champion.”
The Big 12 — Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M — and Southeastern Conference —Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — each received eight berths.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had seven teams selected, including Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia.
Among teams left out of the 64-team field were Eastern Illinois (36-14), New Mexico State (44-17), Rhode Island (37-20-1) and San Jose State (41-20). Meanwhile, Oklahoma State (32-22) received an at-large bid despite not making the Big 12 tournament.
“Certainly we realize we’re going to be criticized or supported for our decisions,” Weiser said. “But the process has worked well for us in the past and it continues to work well, and until we come up with a better system, this is what we have to operate with.”
Weiser said the Cowboys were rewarded for a strong RPI and a 22-19 record against top 100 teams.
“We’re there, and we feel like we’re good enough to be there,” third baseman Tyrone Hambly said.