May 26, 2003
The Notre Dame baseball team will be heading to the west coast to open its quest for a return to the College World Series, with the Irish one of four teams named to participate at the May 30-June 1 regional at California State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.
Notre Dame (43-16) – fresh of becoming the first repeat BIG EAST Conference champion in 17 years – will open play in Friday’s early game (3:00 PDT, 5:00 in South Bend) versus the University of Arizona, followed by the game between the University of San Diego and national No. 7 seed Cal State Fullerton at approximately 7:00.
The winners then advance to Saturday’s pivotal winner’s bracket bracket game (4:00), in the double-elimination format, to be preceded by an elimination game between the losers of Friday’s games (12:30). Saturday’s second elimination game will be played at 7:30, with the championship round slated to begin at 2:00 on Sunday (the “if necessary” game would follow 50 minutes later).
Notre Dame is making its 18th all-time appearance in the NCAA baseball tournament and the sixth of the nine-year Paul Mainieri era. The trip to southern California will represent ND’s second NCAA baseball competition west of Omaha, Neb. (where the Irish played in the 1957 and 2002 College World Series), with the 1989 Notre Dame team competing in a regional held at Fresno State. Other ND teams previously have played NCAA tournament games at Minnesota (twice), Western Michigan (2), Illinois, Ohio State, Miami, Florida State (2), Clemson, Alabama and Mississippi State.
The Fullerton and Notre Dame baseball programs have some familiarity with one another, as CSF won the 1999 NCAA Regional hosted at ND’s Eck Stadium (and then won a Super Regional at Ohio State to advance to the College World Series).
CSF was unable to host NCAA baseball action for several years due to a conflict with its on-campus graduation but the Titans finally were able to host in 2000 and again in ’01.
The winner of the CSF Regional would advance to play the winner of a regional being hosted by Arizona State at Tempe’s minor-league Diablo Stadium. Other teams in the ASU Regional include UNLV, New Mexico State and Central Connecticut.
Arizona (35-17) finished tied with ASU for second place in the Pacific-10 standings (13-8) while CSF was the second-place finisher in the Big West Conference (43-13, 15-6) and has compiled a 26-2 overall record at home this season. San Diego (31-28, 18-2) won its West Coast Conference divisional title before defeating Pepperdine in a three-game series to earn the WCC’s automatic NCAA bid.
Notre Dame has a limited laying history versus the other three teams in the CSF Regional, particularly in recent years. The Irish have lost five previous games versus Arizona, the last coming in a pair of road during the first week of the 1993 season (6-19, 9-1). Notre Dame also dropped three games at Arizona in 1961 (3-5, 4-12, 1-6), just days after winning a 2-0 game at San Diego (the only game of the ND-USD series). Those games were part of Notre Dame’s 13-game west coast swing to open the 1961 season.
Both of the previous ND-CSF matchups have come in the Mainieri era, with the Titans posting a 20-3 win over the Irish at the 1995 Anaheim Classic (Mainieri’s second game at ND) while CSF beat ND in the 1999 regional winner’s bracket game at Eck Stadium (6-3).
Fullerton joins Minnesota and Western Michigan as teams that have played NCAA games at Notre Dame and also played host to the Irish in NCAA baseball competition.
This marks the third time in the last five years that Notre Dame has been placed in a regional with a Big West Conference team, as UC Santa Barbara was part of the field at ND’s 2001 South Bend Regional.
The other national seeds include (listed 1-6) Florida State, LSU, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Rice and Stanford, plus No. 8 Miami.
Ticket information for the regional is available by calling the Cal State Fullerton box office at (714) 278-CSUF. A regional web site also will be launched at TitanSports.org later today.