UF BASEBALL

Gators get No. 1 seed in Oklahoma regional


Despite being shipped to Oklahoma City, the Gators are the No. 1 seed in their regional and will face Central Connecticut State on Friday.

LEE FERINDEN/Sun file photo
Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at 1:34 a.m.

Facts

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  • WHO: No. 1 Florida (40-20) vs. No. 4 Central Connecticut State (41-15-1); No. 2 Oklahoma (37-22) vs. No. 3 UCLA (33-27).

  • WHEN: Friday, 4 p.m..


  • WHERE: Bricktown Ballpark, Oklahoma City.

  • For the first time in three years, Florida will not have to beat Miami to win an NCAA regional. But the Gators still may have to top the Hurricanes to reach the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
    That was the path laid before Florida on Monday afternoon when the NCAA announced the seedings and pairings for the NCAA baseball tournament.
    Florida (40-20) was given a No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma regional and will face No. 4-seed Central Connecticut State (41-15-1) on Friday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The regional includes the second-seeded Sooners (37-22) and No. 3-seed UCLA (33-27).
    The Gators will be appearing in their school-record fifth straight regional. Should UF win the double-elimination regional, it would face the winner of the Miami regional in a Super Regional with a berth to the College World Series on the line.
    After watching the Selection Show at the Lemerand Center on campus Monday, most of the Gators were indifferent about being shipped out of state this weekend.
    "I don't think it matters, to be honest with you," pitcher Justin Hoyman said. "We're going to have to play somebody. Either way, we're going to have to win."
    Senior Ben Harrison, who has lost two regionals at Coral Gables and a third one against Miami in the 2002 Gainesville regional, was pleased with the draw.
    "I'd rather face (Miami) in the Super Regional," he said. "But everybody's going to be tough. I'm just happy we're a No. 1 seed. We're in a better situation."
    It was the best-case scenario for Florida after the Gators were passed over as a regional host site Sunday. A record five Southeastern Conference schools were awarded host sites. And after Miami and Florida State also were given host bids, there seemed to be no room left for the Gators.
    "They're not going to give a lot of host sites in one area," coach Pat McMahon said. "We'd obviously love to host, but you can only have 16 teams."
    But with the nation's fifth-best RPI, the Gators were compensated Monday with a No. 1 seed.
    "We're going to be in a different ballpark," Florida's C.J. Smith said. "But we're going to treat it like we're the home team."
    A record nine SEC schools made the tournament, including McMahon's former team, Mississippi State.
    The Bulldogs (34-22) earned the third seed in the Atlanta regional (to be played at Georgia Tech) despite missing the SEC Tournament. Last year, Florida became the first school ever to make the NCAA Tournament after missing its conference tournament.
    "We're very excited and happy for them to be able to continue their season," McMahon said.
    FSU, meanwhile, received a tough draw as second-seeded Oklahoma State (37-22) and third-seeded Central Florida (44-16) join fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman (27-26). Central Florida boasts a strong pitching staff (with a 3.19 ERA) and had hoped to be a No. 2 seed.
    Miami (44-11) will host No. 2-seed North Carolina St. (35-22), No. 3 Florida Atlantic (45-15) and No. 4 St. Bonaventure (29-20). The Hurricanes would host a Super Regional should they win their regional. The Gators were quite aware that a potential matchup with Miami in the Super Regionals awaited them.
    "If we were fortunate enough to win our regional," Smith said, "it would be awesome to be able to go to Omaha on their field."
    McMahon said he would wait until later this week to name a starter for Friday but didn't hide the fact that junior Connor Falkenbach is a strong candidate. Falkenbach threw a complete-game shutout against Georgia last week in the SEC Tournament.
    "Connor Falkenbach is throwing as good as anyone on our staff right now," McMahon said.
    The top eight national seeds in the tournament are No. 1 Texas, No. 2 South Carolina, No. 3 Miami, No. 4 Georgia Tech, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Rice, No. 7 Arizona State, and No. 8 Arkansas.
    You can reach Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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