May 29, 2006
The Notre Dame baseball team was not selected as a host team for the NCAA Regional but the travel-weary Irish will be playing within range of a busride – as Notre Dame is the No. 3 seed for the four-team regional action at the University of Kentucky’s Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Irish will face the regional’s 2nd-seeded team, the College of Charleston, in Friday’s first round of games (tentatively at 2:00 p.m. EDT) while the host Wildcats will play 4th-seeded Ball State in the other opening matchup (7:00) of the double-elimination regional.
(Note: quotes are forthcoming from NCAA selection day, with comments from ND head coach Paul Mainieri and players Craig Cooper, Greg Lopez, Jeff Manship and Jeff Samardzija – also look for an upcoming quote sheet recapping the team’s fifth straight BIG EAST Tournament title).
The NCAA Regionals again will feature only two games per day, thus meaning that the 6/7-game format could stretch to a fourth day. The losers of Friday’s games will play a 2:00 elimination game on Saturday, followed by the winners-bracket game at 7:00. The second elimination game (between the winner of Saturday’s early game and the loser of the late game) then will be played on Sunday (2:00) while the first championship game will follow later that day (7:00). If a second championship game is needed, it will be played on Monday at 7:00.
All game times have yet to be finalized, pending a possible broadcast commitment from a Lexington-area television station (check back to this release later for all seven official game times and for the potential television information). ESPN-U has indicated that it will telecast the regionals at Cal State Fullerton and the University of Texas whiile CSTV will televise the regional at Rice.
Regional ticket packages are on sale for $60 for reserved seating and $42 for general admission. Single-game tickets, if available, will go on sale Thursday for $10 for reserved seating and $7 for general admission. Tickets are available through the UK Ticket Office by calling (859) 257-1818.
Notre Dame (45-15-1) – currently ranked 15th in the Baseball America poll – enters the NCAAs with wins in seven of its past eight games, including a 4-1 run to its fifth straight BIG EAST Tournament title (no other BIG EAST team has won even three straight tournament titles). Oral Roberts (9) is the only team in the nation with a longer active streak of conference tournament titles while Rice has claimed 10 straight automatic bids (the Owls won the 2006 Conference USA tournament and previously advanced as the Western Athletic Conference regular-season champ, with the WAC not sponsoring a postseason tournament). ORU and Rice are the only teams – among 30 other Division I conferences – that are riding a streak of more than five consecutive conference automatic bids.
Notre Dame – which recovered from a 2-5 start to reach 40 wins for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons – compiled a midseason 23-game winning streak (no other D-I team won more than 18 straight in ’06). The Irish will be making the program’s eighth straight appearance in the NCAAs and ninth of the 12-year Paul Mainieri era. Notre Dame is part of an elite group of 10 teams that have appeared in the NCAAs every year since 1999, with the others including: recent NCAA champions Miami, Texas, Rice and Cal State Fullerton, plus Florida State, Stanford, Clemson, Tulane and Oral Roberts.
The four teams at the Lexington Regional own a 167-65-1 combined record, with three currently ranked among the Baseball America top-25. Kentucky is ranked 13th in that poll and carries a 42-15 overall record, after posting the top regular-season record in Southeastern Conference play (20-10) but going 0-2 at the SEC Tournament. The 24th-ranked College of Charleston (43-15 overall, 20-7 conference) won the Southern Conference Tournament while Ball State (37-20, 16-9 MAC) swept through the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Kentucky is serving as an NCAA host for the first time and will be making its first NCAA appearance since 1993 (fifth overall in the history of the program).
Notre Dame will be making its 21st all-time appearances in the NCAAs, with a 41-42 record in previous NCAA Tournaments, including trips to the College World Series in 1957 and 2002. The Irish own a 20-17 record in the NCAAs during the Mainieri era (since 1995) and are one of just seven teams to reach a regional final in each of the past six seasons (from 2000-05; others to do so include LSU, Miami, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford and Texas). Notre Dame has gone 11-11 away from home in Mainieri-era NCAA games, including a win over homestanding Mississippi State in 2000 (plus two wins over Tulane at that ’00 Regional), the Super-Regional victories at Florida State in 2002, the ’02 CWS win over Rice and a win over North Carolina at the 2005 Gainesville Regional.
The College of Charleston will become the 286th all-time opponent in 114 seasons of Notre Dame baseball. The Irish own a mark of 19-3 in their past 22 games versus first-time opponents (dating back to 2000), including recent NCAA Tournament wins over first-time opponents UC Santa Barbara (’01), Rice (’02) and UC Irvine (’04).
Notre Dame and Kentucky have split 10 previous games but the teams have not met since the Irish played four times at UK early in the 1993 season (the Wildcats won 3-of-4; 6-7, 13-10, 8-7, 9-6), which happens to be the previous season that Kentucky advanced to the NCAAs.
Ball State and Notre Dame have been among the state of Indiana’s top teams for the past two decades. Notre Dame holds a 15-12 lead in a series versus BSU that dates back to 1976, with none of the previous games played at a neutral site (ND won a 6-4 game vs. BSU earlier this season at Eck Stadium).
Recent Notre Dame teams have played NCAA regional action hosted by SEC teams Alabama (’96), Mississippi State (’00) and Florida (’05). The Irish also have played in NCAA regionals hosted by Atlantic Coast Conference teams Clemson (’94) and Florida State (’93; also ’02 super regional), in addition to playing in the 2003 NCAA Regional held at Cal State Fullerton. Previous Notre Dame teams have played NCAA Tournament games at Minnesota, Western Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Fresno State and Miami.
Notre Dame’s tradition of upsetting home teams in NCAA Tournament play includes wins at Minnesota (’56), Western Michigan (’57), Miami (’92), Florida State (’93 Regional; twice in ’02 super regional), Clemson (’94) and Mississippi State (’00).
Tentative Schedule for 2006 NCAA Lexington Regional (Cliff Hagan Stadium)
Friday, June 2
Game 1: Notre Dame vs. College of Charleston, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Game 2: Ball State vs. Kentucky, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 3
Game 3: Day-1 losing teams at 2:00 (elimination game)
Game 4: Day-1 winning teams at 7:00
Sunday, June 4
Game 5: 2:00 p.m. (elimination game)
Game 6: 7:00 p.m. (championship round, game 1)
Monday, June 5
Game 7: 7:00 p.m. (championship game 2, if necessary)