May 27, 2002
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Sports Writer
Florida State enters the Division I college baseball tournament in the position it hopes to finish the season – on top.
The Seminoles (56-12), who are in the tournament for the 25th consecutive year but have never won a College World Series, were selected as the top seed in the 64-team field Monday.
The other seeded teams are: Clemson (47-14), Alabama (48-13), Rice (47-11), Texas (48-14), South Carolina (48-14), Wake Forest (44-11-1) and Stanford (40-16).
“We had another challenging experience,” said Wally Groff, chairman of the Division I baseball committee. “It was different than the past, and did take longer for us to do.”
The committee, focusing on safety and travel concerns, selected the 16 regional sites for the tournament by secret ballot after all 64 teams were selected. Teams were grouped based primarily on geographic proximity. Previously, regional sites were determined a week before the field was announced.
“I don’t believe it’s a permanent situation,” said Groff, the athletic director at Texas A&M. “It was because of 9-11, and I’m sure our championship cabinet will review this before next year.”
The Gainesville and Tallahassee regionals each consist of four Florida teams, the Palo Alto regional has just California teams, and the Baton Rouge regional has only Louisiana teams.
“One good thing is that it does make it convenient for the fans to attend the games,” Groff said.
Florida State, which opens the double-elimination first round Friday against Stetson, finished as runners-up in 1970, ’86 and ’99. The Seminoles are on a 22-game winning streak and are one victory from setting a school record.
“I think we just had some very good pitching, and that’s what it usually amounts to,” said coach Mike Martin, who has led Florida State to 50 or more wins 20 times. “Our guys have taken advantage of every opportunity they’ve had the past five or six weeks.”
In addition to the top eight seeds, regional hosts include Arizona State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisiana State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Southern California, and Wichita State.
There were 35 teams that made bids to play host to regionals, but none from the Northeast. Because of that, most of the Northeast teams have to make long trips: Maine will play at Los Angeles, Marist at Lincoln, Neb., and Central Connecticut State at Austin, Texas.
“The committee and the NCAA staff has encouraged teams from the North and Northeast to submit bids and give us some other options,” Groff said. “We really needed a host site in the East, or maybe two.”
Groff said the 10-member committee based its decisions on teams’ records, strength of schedule, quality wins and power rankings or RPI.
The Southeastern Conference, with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina led all conferences with seven teams after sending a record-eight last year. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Conference USA had five each.
Defending-champion Miami (30-26) will make its 30th straight tournament appearance to extend its NCAA record. The Hurricanes, whose record hovered around .500 all season, played one of the toughest schedules in the country and won their last five games.
“The main factor was that 34 of their games were played against top-50 opponents,” Groff said.
Tennessee (27-28) was the only College World Series team from last year not among this year’s 64 teams – 40 of which were in the 2001 tournament.
Groff identified Mississippi (37-19), Mississippi State (33-22-1) and Oklahoma State (37-21) as teams that were among the last cuts.
There are five teams making their first tournament appearances: Central Connecticut State, Elon, Louisville, New Mexico State and San Diego.
Harvard (20-24) and Navy (22-23) won conference titles to receive automatic bids despite losing records.
The winners of each four-team regional will advance to the super regionals at eight sites to be determined. The eight winners of the super regionals, which begin June 7, will play in the College World Series, which starts June 14 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
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