The field of 64 is set for the NCAA baseball postseason. The unveiling of the bracket on Monday, with regional play to begin Thursday on the ESPN family of networks, featured two teams apiece from the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 among the eight national seeds.
Don’t expect chalk in June, though, as 11 of the past 13 national champions — including five straight since South Carolina won the title in 2011 — came from outside the pool of national seeds. Winners of the 16 regional will meet in super-regional play, June 9 through 12.
The College World Series opens on June 17 in Omaha, Nebraska. Here are five takeaways from the announcement of the tournament field:
Turn back the clock: Ten years after Oregon State completed a run to consecutive national championships, it boasts an eye-popping 49-4 record as the top overall seed. Oregon State pitchers have a 1.84 ERA and have held opponents to a .198 batting average, led by junior left-hander Luke Heimlich (10-1, 0.81 ERA), a potential first-round draft pick next month. Oregon State takes a 16-game winning streak into the Corvallis regional, opening Friday at 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU against fourth-seeded Holy Cross. If form holds, the Beavers and veteran coach Pat Casey would meet No. 2 seed North Carolina in the CWS championship series. Their foe in the best-of-three finals in 2006 and 2007? The Tar Heels.
Look who’s missing: Miami’s 44-year postseason run — the longest ever in any college sport — is over. The Hurricanes finished at 31-27 with a loss to North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. The 25-time College World Series participants visited Omaha in each of the past two seasons and boosted their résumé with five straight wins late but failed to snag one of 33 at-large spots. San Francisco athletic director Scott Sidwell, chairman of the baseball selection committee, cited the Hurricanes’ 30 Division I victories as a key factor. “Ultimately, [Miami] just didn’t stack up,” Sidwell said. Also missing is defending national champion Coastal Carolina, the regular-season Sun Belt champion, which overcame a slow start to win 37 games and earn a spot in the national rankings.
One more time? Missing from the tournament altogether in three of the past four years, Stanford returns as a host in the final season for retiring coach Mark Marquess. Marquess, 70, has coached the Cardinal for 41 seasons, winning 1,625 games and two national championships in his 14 trips to the CWS. He’s coached 60 players who went on the major leagues and this year thrived despite the preseason injury to ace pitcher Tristan Beck. The Cardinal have not hosted a regional since 2012 and last played in Omaha in 2008. A storybook run for Marquess could include a duel with longtime West Coast nemesis Cal State Fullerton, the No. 2 seed in the Stanford regional.
Tough road for the Cats: Kentucky’s strong bid for a national seed fell short, a blow for the Wildcats, who finished third to Florida and LSU in the SEC with 19 league wins behind first-year coach Nick Mingione and SEC Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle. The only SEC program without a CWS appearance, Kentucky earned the unenviable spot in the bracket opposite rival Louisville. If the Wildcats win the Lexington regional and the ACC champion Cardinals hold serve as the No. 7 national seed, Kentucky must travel to Louisville for a super regional. Louisville eliminated Kentucky in regional play in 2014.
ACC controversy: The committee came under scrutiny for its selection of Clemson as a regional host over Virginia. The Tigers finished 39-19, losing 11 of their final 12 games against ACC competition, while the Cavaliers (42-14) won their final six ACC series and beat Clemson 10-2 on Friday at the league tournament. “Razor thin,” said Sidwell of the decision. “There were arguments on both sides.” Clemson’s home regional is paired in the next round with the Oregon State regional. Virginia travels as a No. 2 seed to Fort Worth, Texas, where host TCU holds the No. 6 national seed in a regional opposite host Arkansas. A silver lining for the Cavs? Two years ago, they were sent on the road to California for regional play and responded by winning the national title.