The Gophers baseball team claimed the Big Ten’s regular-season title with an 18-4 record before winning four consecutive games to claim the conference tournament title.
Coach John Anderson said Monday that the Gophers’ 22-4 conference record explains why his team will play host to an NCAA regional for the first time since 2000.
“The selection committee really tries to emphasize your record in your own league,” Anderson said after returning from Omaha, where the Gophers won their 10th overall Big Ten tournament title and first since 2010. “The fact we are hosting and the 14th [overall] seed nationally, is a reflection of our body of work for the entire year. Especially when you consider the strength of our conference. It was very strong this year, with four teams getting NCAA bids.”
On Monday, the NCAA announced the 64-team field, with the Gophers (41-13) facing Canisius (35-20) at Siebert Field at 7 p.m. Friday. Canisius won the MAAC’s automatic berth by beating top-seeded Monmouth (N.J.) in the conference championship game.
The other two teams in the double-elimination regional in the Twin Cities this weekend are UCLA and Gonzaga. UCLA (36-19), which finished in fourth place in the Pac-12 and is the regional’s No. 2 seed, and third-seeded Gonzaga (32-22), which won the West Coast Conference tournament, will play Friday afternoon.
“At first glance,” Anderson said, “I think it’s a strong regional. Three of the top 10 team ERAs — UCLA, Gonzaga and us — in the nation are in this regional. And Canisius has a very good No. 1 starter. They will be a formidable opponent for us.”
The regional will also have two games Saturday and two more Sunday. If there are two teams left with one loss after Sunday, a winner-take-all regional championship game would be played Monday.
The regional champion advances to one of eight best-of-three super regionals the following weekend. Those eight winners will make up the field for the College World Series in Omaha.
The Gophers have won nine consecutive games and 27 of 30, including Sunday’s 6-4 victory over Purdue for the Big Ten tournament tile, to reach 40 victories for the first time since 2009. Before the 2000 regional, the Gophers last played host to a regional in 1977, the last year they went to the College World Series.
Defending College World Series champion Florida (42-17) was named the No. 1 overall seed, with Stanford, Oregon State, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia rounding out the top eight. This year, the NCAA expanded its seeding from eight to 16 teams, and seeds 9-16 are Texas Tech, Clemson, Stetson, East Carolina, the Gophers, Coastal Carolina and North Carolina State.
Indiana, Purdue and Ohio State are the other Big Ten teams named to the field, with Illinois one of the first teams left out.