Baseball lands Regional bid

The Arizona baseball team did what it needed to in order to earn a second straight trip to the NCAA postseason tournament. A dramatic come-from-behind win over USC in Los Angeles on Sunday, a 9-6 record over the final five weeks the season and a very strong regular season schedule were just enough to advance UA into the field of 64 teams.

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The Wildcats (30-24-1, 12-12 Pac-10) earned a No. 3 regional seed and will be heading to South Bend, Ind., this week to take on UC Irvine in the opening round of the tournament on Friday. The other two teams in the regional are host school Notre Dame and No. 4 seed Kent State.

The extension of the year marks the first time since 1992-93 that the Wildcats will be playing past the regular season in consecutive years. It also marks the first time since that the Pac-10 merged into one league in 1999 that a school with a 12-12 conference record has advanced.

"I'm very pleased for the team," Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. "I think the level of competition and some of the success we had against those schools certainly helped us in the eyes of the selection committee, but we've also worked very hard over the final five weeks of the season to get to this point. However, we also know that we're a better team then the way we've played this year. After talking with the players yesterday at USC, I think they'll agree when I say that we haven't played our best baseball yet."

Nick Hundley's three-run homer against USC on Sunday capped off a five-week stretch that saw Arizona take two of three from Cal, NCAA-bound UCLA, nationally seeded and regional host Stanford and USC. The stretch run push helped the Wildcats rebound from a series sweep at Washington on April 23-25 and a 21-18-1 overall record. The final nine wins of the year lifted Arizona to the 30-win mark for a fourth consecutive year.

There is no question that UA's strength of schedule helped in determining its postseason fate. Arizona played 17 games against schools ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game and went 7-10 against them. The Wildcats defeated four schools that won either their conference championship or tournament and received automatic bids to the postseason, including Pac-10 champions Stanford, Big West champions Cal State Fullerton and Mountain West Tournament champions UNLV.

In addition, the Wildcats played 26 of their 55 regular season games against schools that advanced to the postseason in 2003, including 17 games against 2003 super regional participants and six against teams that played in last year's College World Series.

Tickets for the upcoming regional may be purchased at the ND Athletics Ticket Office (located on the second floor of the Joyce Center) or by calling (574) 631-7356.


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