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College World Series: Arizona and UCSB carrying the torch for West Coast baseball

The West is still alive and kicking after getting ignored by the selection committee

UCSB Gauchos win the Tony Gwynn Classic
Jason Bartel

When the NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional sites were announced on the final Sunday of the regular season, there was an uproar about having no Regionals west of Lubbock, Texas.

It forced every team from the west to hit the road, but to them, that’s not a problem since they don’t want to face each other in the postseason anyway.

"I don’t know if anyone ever goes on the record of saying this but I will," San Diego Toreros head coach Rich Hill told me. "Out here we all hope that we get sent out of the west. Every team in the west hopes they get sent out of here for a Regional, so what does that tell ya?"

This year, the selection committee gave the 16 host sites to teams with an RPI of at least 17. The lone team that didn’t get one was Coastal Carolina, and they’re in the College World Series now. They’re joined there by several other teams that didn’t host, including Oklahoma State, and the two western teams, Arizona and UC-Santa Barbara.

"I think the committee has a tough job, but I think they’re called NCAA Regionals for a reason, right?," Coach Hill continued. "And to not have a regional on the west coast to me was stunning. All of our schedules are set up where we beat each other up. We swept ASU (T-3rd in the Pac-12) this year, and we finished 6th in the WCC, and there’s stories like that throughout the west, so it’s nearly impossible to build your RPI, and that’s where the problem lies."

"If they’re going to rank those host sites by RPI 1-16, the west coast is going to get the short end of the stick."

The ACC and SEC ended up getting one team each into the CWS. The Big 12 has three teams in Omaha, with the Pac-12, Big West and Big South each sending one as well.

"There’s so much good baseball out here," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson tacked on. "There’s so many good coaches. There’s so many good players."

"I mean, when we got that last out at Oregon, I’ve never been so happy to be 16-14 in my life," Johnson said through a smile. "That’s about as emotional as I’ve been all year, when we got that last out. Yeah, there’s great baseball out here."

That 16-14 record got Arizona into a tie for third in the Pac-12, and they went on the road to beat the champions of the Sun Belt and the SEC. The Gauchos finished third in the Big West, and swept ACC Atlantic Division Champion Louisville, also on the road obviously.

"I want to have a chance to be in the tournament," Johnson continued. "I want teams from out here to have a chance to be in the tournament, so that players can experience what our guys have gotten to experience. And if in the future, we need to look at that sixth or seventh place Pac-12 team the way we look at an 8th place SEC team, then it definitely matters."

"This has been a bit of redemption," Hill added. "How cool is it for UC-Santa Barbara or for Arizona?"

With the way the bracket shook out, there’s a 50% chance of Arizona or UCSB getting to the Championship Final. And then they’ll have a chance to bring that trophy out west without a game being played out here in the month of June.

UCSB opens play on Saturday at noon PT against Oklahoma State, while Arizona plays Miami at 5 PM PT Saturday night.