The Irish had hoped to land one of the coveted top eight seeds in the tournament, but once again, the Irish were snubbed by the committee—something that doesn't sit well with Irish coach Paul Mainieri. "I don't know what more we have to do," said Mainieri of landing a top seed. "I'm disappointed, but we've just got to focus on what we can control and go out and play well."
"I don't know if 49 wins will ever be enough," said Mainieri of the selection process. "I think the RPI is flawed. We were ranked five, five, six and six, yet our RPI is 19th. We were 7-0 against ranked teams--I'm just not sure what more we can do."
The good news for Notre Dame is they do get to host a regional, and Mainieri believes that is very important to the future of Irish baseball. "I hope the local fans understand what this means," Mainieri said. "This didn't happen in baseball until 1999. Midwest or Northern schools were not chosen to host a regional in college baseball until just recently. This is a very special thing for the Irish and Notre Dame, and I hope the fans understand that and come out and support us."
"It's also proof that Northern teams can be successful," Mainieri continued. "We won 49 games this year--that is the most we've ever won in the regular season. This will be our fourth time in six years that we've hosted a regional. I think that just says where we are as a top program in college baseball."
With the selection process over, the Irish will now focus on beating Kent State. "I'm not sure yet," said Mainieri when asked about Friday's starter on the mound. "We're going to wait and see how they throw in the bullpen and decide tomorrow."
The Irish used junior Grant Johnson on the mound in the first game of the BIG EAST tournament. Some speculate that Mainieri might save his ace for the winner of the second game between Cal-Irvine and Arizona. Johnson, Chris Niesel and Tom Thornton have all been used as the No. 1 starter at various points in the season.
Mainieri knows the trick to any double elimination tournament is to stay out of the loser's bracket. "The most important thing is to win your first two games," Mainieri said. "If you win the first two games, the most you're going to play is four games. If you lose a game in your first two games, you're going to have to play five, and that can be really hard on your pitching."
The Irish will have a difficult road if they want to get to Omaha. If they do advance, Stanford (ranked No. 1 in Baseball America's poll) could be their next opponent in the super regional. "I think we're playing our best baseball right now," said Mainieri. I think everyone understands what their role is. Our goal is still the same. We're just going to have to beat some very good teams to get there."