Sunday's announcement of the regional brackets left a number of people scratching their heads, including Irish coach Paul Mainieri.
"It's hard to understand," Mainieri said at a team luncheon after the brackets were announced on ESPN early Sunday. "We had the fourth most wins in the entire country, 23-game winning streak, we won the regular season title, we won the conference title, we're in the top 30 in pitching, hitting and defense. To not get to host was extremely disappointing."
The Irish were announced as the three seed in a bracket scheduled to be played in Lexington, Ky. Notre Dame will play No. 2 seed, College of Charleston, and Kentucky, the No. 1 seed, will play Ball State in their first round game.
"You're best chance to advance is to play at home. It's been a proven track record. When we didn't receive that yesterday, I went for a very high in the way we won the Big East Tournament, to an extreme low in being bypassed for the host site. Then to hear today that we're a (No.) 3 seed was really kind of a shocker."
"I don't really care about the seeding," Mainieri continued. "You have to win the games out on the field. But to named a three seed, I think there was a message there in what the selection committee thought of us."
"I can't for the life of me understand why. It's not like we're a one-year wonder. We've done this for many years. We've done well when we get into the tournament. We've been to six straight regional finals. 2002 we advanced all the way to the World Series. At some point you'd think there should be some respect, but it just doesn't seem like there is."
Mainieri said his team doesn't feel they need to prove anything to anyone at this point and their record speaks for itself.
"What it does is makes us mad," he said. "If being mad makes you go out there and give a little more effort and play a little harder, then so be it. The reality is, now, if we want to get to the College World Series, we're going to have to do it out on the road. We've been on the road for the month. I guess it's nothing new."
The Irish will leave for Lexington on Wednesday and play their first game of the tournament on Friday. Mainieri said he wasn't sure of the pitching rotation for the weekend, but he could name Friday's starter.
"Jeff Samardzija will start the first game Friday," he said. "After that, I've got figure out what these others teams have and then look at match-ups."
Irish shortstop Greg Lopez said he's not concerned with where the Irish are seeded in this tournament. A three-time vet of the tournament, he knows they have to win them all anyway to get to where he wants to end up.
"We're definitely excited," Lopez said. We were hoping to host a regional, but that didn't happen. We're excited to go to Kentucky. I think it's going to be a great regional, and we'll get ready to play College of Charleston for the first game. You still have to win the games, and we've proven we can win a lot of games."
Big East batting champ Craig Cooper agreed with Lopez. The experience this team has had recently will help them win some games on the road.
"Being through this before is definitely a big help for us," Cooper said. "We know what to expect. We know we did the job in the regular season and that's what's gotten us here. We don't have to do anything more than do what we've been doing to win these games. I think some times in the past we pressed a little too much and that hurt us. We know we just need to keep playing the way we have and we'll be fine."
The X-factor that might make the difference for this Irish squad versus the previous Irish teams is their ability to come from behind. This 2006 Irish team has won a number of games when trailing.
"We know that we're in every game," said Lopez of this team's ability to bounce back. "We just started to believe we could get it done. I think during the 23-game winning streak we had 11 or 12 come-from-behind wins. That's the good thing about this team. Even when we're down, whether it be the first, second, seventh or ninth inning, we know we can come back."
"I think it is team confidence," said Cooper of the team's resiliency. "Pressing in the ninth inning isn't going to help. You don't need to hit the three-run home run. You just need to get guys on base and we can win games. I think that's been the difference."
If the Irish win on Friday, they'll play the winner of Kentucky-Ball State on Saturday in the second game of the day. If the Irish lose to Charleston, they'll play first in an elimination game against the loser of Friday's Kentucky-Ball State match-up.