How do Cougs feel about their draw?

PULLMAN -- Washington State baseball has a proud tradition, they've made the postseason 16 times. But only four Cougar teams have qualified for the College World Series. WSU's most recent trek to the holy land of college baseball -- otherwise known as Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. -- came way back in 1976. However, the 23rd-ranked Cougars have good reason to like their chances at regionals.

That's because WSU learned Monday they will open the NCAA tournament Friday at 5:05 p.m. PDT against a familiar foe -- unranked Kansas State, at a familiar field -- Arkansas' Baum Stadium.

"I'm pretty excited about our draw," senior first baseman Michael Weber said after players joined dozens of fans at the Paradise Creek Brewery to watch the NCAA selection show on ESPN.

"I think the familiarity is going to help us," sophomore right fielder Derek Jones said. "There's going to be no real surprises."

WSU played at Kansas State in 2008. Last year, the Cougars opened the season at Arkansas, where the Razorbacks draw some of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds in college baseball.

More good news for the Cougars, who are seeded second at the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional -- No. 15 Arkansas, the top seed at the regional and the only other ranked team in the field, has lost two straight and seven of nine. Kansas State, the No. 3 seed. has lost four of five. And fourth-seeded Grambling (La.) State is 23-30 with a gruesome 8.51 team earned run average.

Kansas State (36-20) has five players batting .333 or better, led by center fielder Nick Martini at .416. Third baseman Adam Muenster is hitting .386 with 25 stolen bases. Shortstop Carter Jurica, a .359 hitter, is the Wildcats' only prime-time power threat with 11 homers and 65 RBIs.

"I think they're a lot like us," WSU coach Donnie Marbut said. "I think they play really hard."

KANSAS STATE COACH Brad Hill returned the compliment to Marbut and the Cougars.

"His teams are fierce," Hill said. "They play extremely hard."

The Wildcats, like WSU, have bounced in and out of the national polls this year and are making their second straight regional appearance after an extended absence.

Marbut said junior right-hander Chad Arnold (5-3, 3.47) will start against Kansas State. Sophomore left-hander Kyle Hunter (9-2, 4.50) has been K-State's only reliable starter. Hill said Hunter or sophomore right-hander Justin Lindsey (4-3, 5.52) will start against WSU.

ARKANSAS (40-18) FIGURES TO present the biggest hurdle for the Cougars (34-20) at the double-elimination regionals. One team will advance from Fayetteville to next week‘s best-of-three Super Regionals, which produce the eight qualifiers for the World Series.

The only three players at the Fayetteville Regional who are listed among Baseball America magazine's top 200 projected picks in the June draft are Arkansas players.

Third baseman Zack Cox, BA's No. 6 pick for the draft, is batting .432 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs.

Brett Eibner, a pitcher-outfielder with a 97-mph fastball, is BA's pick to go 23rd in the draft. He has solid stats at the plate (.332-18-61) and on the mound (3-4, 4.47, 52 strikeouts in 54 1-3 innings).

Arkansas southpaw Drew Smyly (8-1, 2.54) is projected to go in the third round of the draft at No. 86. The Razorbacks might save Smyly for Saturday, since Grambling State will be a major underdog against Arkansas on Friday.

GRAMBLING STATE opened the season 0-9, but the Tigers have won six in a row, including all four of their games at the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament. The Tigers rank among the national leaders with 138 stolen bases (in 165 attempts), but the SWAC is lightly regarded in baseball.

Arkansas averages 7,749 fans per home date at Baum (capacity 10,737), and Razorback fans love to heckle opponents and drink beer -- not necessarily in that order.

"It's the best college baseball stadium in the country, in my opinion," Marbut said. "They've got great fans."

"It was actually a lot of fun (last year)," Weber said.

Alcohol is served in suites, and fans bring in beer in coolers and sit on the grass berm in left field. "It's a whole different atmosphere down there in the south," Jones said. "We'll be ready for it."

IT WAS NOT immediately known if any of WSU's games will be televised. The ESPN family of networks owns the TV rights. KHTR 104.3 FM in Pullman will broadcast all Cougar games live, and KXLX 700 AM in Spokane will carry the Friday and Saturday games, but contractural obligations may prevent them from broadcasting Sunday and/or Monday games if the Cougars are still alive. The Cougar radio feed can be picked up for a fee at

ALL TIME, WSU is 1-2 against Kansas State, 2-5 against Arkansas and 0-0 against Grambling State. WSU lost 9-6 at Kansas State early in the 2008 season. The Cougars went 0-4 against Arkansas last year, including a 10-3 loss at the Norman (Okla.) Regional, where WSU finished 1-2.

THE COUGARS ARE making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 1987-88. WSU's best showing in the College World Series came in the Cougars' first trip, when they finished second to Texas in 1950. That was the first CWS in Omaha. The first two were held in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1947-48. The 1949 event was held in Wichita, Kan.

JONES SAID HE no longer expects to be invited to tryouts for the U.S. national college team this summer, but teammate Adam Conley said he remains hopeful. Jones and Conley were told early in the season that they likely would be invited to try out, but the players say that's the last they've heard from USA Baseball representatives.

A RECORD EIGHT Pac-10 teams will play in the 64-team NCAA tournament. The previous record was five. Only USC and Washington failed to make it this season out of the Pac-10. The SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference also have eight teams entered. Two of the eight national seeds, No. 1 Arizona State and No. 6 UCLA, were produced by the Pac-10. WSU is 2-1 against Arizona State and 1-2 against UCLA.

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