If there was any joy from Monday’s announcement of the NCAA tournament bracket, it was that Cal State Fullerton will not be in the field for the first time since 1991. Despite ranking No. 4 in the most recent polls and losing just one series all year — to the nation’s No. 1 overall seed no less— Stanford (41-11, 22-7 Pac-12) fell to No. 11, losing an automatic bid to host a potential super regional.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal will begin the #RoadToOmaha at home in Sunken Diamond. The two-time national title program will be hosting its third consecutive and 18th overall NCAA Regional. Stanford is 65-18 in playoff games played at Sunken Diamond, but the Cardinal have not reached the College World Series since 2008.
The past two seasons, Stanford’s season has been ended at home by Fullerton. The first loss cut legendary head coach Mark Marquess’ 41-year career short, while the second knocked off the No. 2 national seed prematurely.
As the No. 1 seed in the region, the Cardinal will welcome No. 2 UC Santa Barbara, No. 3 Fresno State and No. 4 Sacramento State. Stanford’s first contest will be with Sacramento State (39-23, 18-9 WAC), the automatic qualifier of the WAC.
The Gauchos (45-9, 19-5 Big West) are also the lone representatives of their conference, the Big West, the only conference outside of the Pac-12 to not hold a postseason tournament. UCSB was pegged as a potential No. 1 seed while ranking No. 14 in the two most recent polls before dropping two of three games over the weekend to Cal Poly.
The only opponent in the group the Cardinal has faced this season, Fresno State (38-14-1, 20-8-1 Mountain West) is one of the nation’s hottest teams, having won its past seven games to take the Mountain West conference. Stanford managed an early April win over the Bulldogs in a 2-0 pitcher’s duel.
The double-elimination format allows for a squad to drop once and still advance, with the winner of the Stanford Regional taking on the champion of the Starkville Regional. The super regional functions as a best-of-three series ahead of the College World Series, and will feature the best of No. 1 Mississippi State (46-13), No. 2 Miami (39-18), No. 3 Central Michigan (46-12) or No. 4 Southern (32-22).
The Pac-12 placed four other teams in the tournament, including the overall No. 1 seed UCLA (47-8). No. 2 Arizona State (37-17), which nearly took a series off of the Cardinal in the desert to conclude the regular season, will participate in the Baton Rouge Regional. Powered by Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn, No. 2 Cal (32-18) will travel to Fayetteville. With the top prospect of the MLB draft, Adley Rutschman, Oregon State (36-18-1), which split a two-game series with the Cardinal, will host its own regional.
Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced the morning of Tuesday, June 4. Before then, Stanford will have to deal with one of the nation’s most difficult draws, beginning with Sacramento State at 1:00 p.m. PT at Sunken Diamond on Friday.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.