May 28, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Baseball - 2012 College World Series
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For a New Mexico Lobo team without a home (field) most of the season, maybe playing on the road is a home away from home. The Lobos, who rolled to the Mountain West crown in Las Vegas, open the College World Series Friday in Los Angeles against the University of San Diego Toreros.
The Lobos (36-22) get to stay in the West, but were placed in the bracket opposite the overall No. 2 seed UCLA (42-14), which opens in L.A. against Creighton. The games will be played at Jackie Robinson Stadium. This is the third straight NCAA Regional held at UCLA.
The Lobos entered the bracket with the Mountain West's automatic berth after winning their second straight MW tournament title. This is the third consecutive march into postseason play for Coach Ray Birmingham's soaring program. UNM beat San Diego State 22-3 to win the MW tourney crown.
The NCAA Division I Baseball Championships open with 16 regionals featuring four teams playing in a double-elimination bracket. The 16 host teams were announced on Sunday and New Mexico joined the NCAA postseason party on Monday morning during the NCAA Baseball Selection Show.
The Bruins obviously are the showcase team - and the team to beat - in their regional, but the Toreros will not be an easy out.
San Diego lost 5-1 Sunday to Pepperdine to lose the West Coast Conference championship to the Waves. However, San Diego went into that game ranked No. 20 in the nation and left with a sparkling 40-15 record.
The Toreros also finished second in the WCC with a 15-9 mark, behind Pepperdine's 16-8 record.
San Diego is paced by sophomore third baseman Kris Bryant, who is hitting .359 with 74 hits, 16 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 57 RBIs.
San Diego was ranked No. 20 in last week's Collegiate Baseball Top 25 poll, was No. 21 in the Baseball America's Top 25 poll and was No. 23 in the USAToday/ESPN Top 25 poll.
San Diego and Pepperdine both took 14-7 WCC marks into last weekend's three-game finale and the Waves took two of three to grab the title. The 2012 Torero team is only the third team in the program's history to reach the 40-win plateau.
The Toreros have a solid pitching staff paced by Michael Wagner, a 6-4 right-hander. Wagner led the nation with 19 saves to set a San Diego and WCC single-season mark. Wagner has a 2.50 ERA with 48 strikeouts against only 17 walks.
San Diego features five pitchers with ERAs under 3.40: Wagner (2.50), James Pazos (1.53), Paul Sewald (2.83), Calvin Drummond (3.33) and Dylan Covey (3.38).
Like the Lobos, the Toreros also have some sticks featuring seven players hitting over .300 and nine players hitting over .280. Corey LeVier tops San Diego with a .367 average (.402 in WCC games). San Diego bats .310 as a team while its pitching staff is holding the enemy to a .252 batting average. The Toreros are 28-1 this season in games they led after six innings.
The national top eight seeds are 1-Florida (42-18), 2-UCLA (42-14), 3-Florida State (43-15), 4-Baylor (44-14), 5-Oregon (42-17), 6-North Carolina (44-14), 7-LSU (43-16) and 8-South Carolina (40-17).
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) led all conferences in the number of teams in the championship field with eight, while the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has seven institutions. The Pacific-12 has five and the Big 12 and Conference USA each has four selected. TCU joined New Mexico from the Mountain West. New Mexico State made the field out of the Western Athletic Conference.
Making the tournament for the first time are Dayton of the Atlantic 10 Conference and Samford of the Southern Conference. Overall, 37 of the 64 teams were in the field last year.
Miami (Fla.) is in the field for the 40th consecutive year, extending its own record. Florida State is making its 35th appearance in a row, second all-time. Other long consecutive streaks: Cal State Fullerton (21), Rice (18) and Oral Roberts (15).
Each of the 16 regionals features four teams, playing a double-elimination format. The regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, June 1, to Monday, June 4 (if necessary). Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on NCAA.com on June 4 at approximately 11 p.m. ET.
The 66th Men's College World Series begins play Friday, June 15, at the TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Neb.