UCLA Bruins top the No. 1 seeds for NCAA baseball tournament

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Monday, May 25, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. -- UCLA coach John Savage didn't expect his Bruins to be down for long after they went from being national champions in 2013 to finishing five games under .500 in 2014.

He was right.

The Bruins' dominance in the Pac-12 this spring impressed the Division I Baseball Committee so much that on Monday they were awarded their first No. 1 national seed for the NCAA tournament.

"We knew we were going to have a good team," Savage said. "We knew we had some players back, and we knew we were healthy. But to go from the top of the mountain in '13 to the bottom in '14 and then back in '15, at least to this point, feels pretty good.

"The Pac-12 coaches predicted us to win the league. I think that's kind of a telling sign. You still have to go out and do it and have things go your way."

The Bruins (42-14) edged out SEC regular-season champion LSU (48-10) even though they lost two of three at Oregon in their final series.

"UCLA has been there for much of the season. LSU is an outstanding club as well. There's such a fine line between the two," said committee chairman Dave Heeke, athletic director at Central Michigan. "UCLA did not lose a series until that last weekend. They were a powerful group throughout the entire year. Ultimately, it was very close, but they were deemed to be our No. 1 overall seed."

The other six national seeds, in order, are Louisville, Florida, Miami, Illinois, TCU and Missouri State.

The tournament opens Friday with 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals. Best-of-three super regionals are next week, with those winners moving to the College World Series in Omaha.

National seeds that win their regionals play at home in super regionals. Since the NCAA went to its current tournament format in 1999, only one No. 1 national seed -- Miami in 1999 -- has won the championship.

UCLA didn't even make the tournament last year, following its championship with an injury-riddled 25-30-1 season.

The Bruins have bounced back on the strength of a pitching staff that leads the nation with a 2.16 ERA and a much-improved offense that is batting .285 and averaging better than six runs a game.

This is the third time since 2010 that UCLA has earned a national seed. UCLA starts the tournament in Los Angeles against Cal State Bakersfield. Maryland and Mississippi also are in the Bruins' regional.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri's team has been the consensus No. 1 team in the major polls for a month. He said he had no problem with the selection committee's decision on national seedings.

"A lot was made of, 'Are we going to be the No. 1 overall seed?' I wasn't the least bit concerned about it," Mainieri said. "UCLA is very deserving of that honor. We would have been deserving as well. It really doesn't matter."

The Tigers have one of the country's most powerful offenses, batting .320 and scoring 7.2 runs a game. They lost to Florida in the semifinals of the SEC tournament.

Defending national champion Vanderbilt was among a group of teams considered for one of the last two national seeds. The Commodores, runners-up to Florida in the SEC tournament, start the NCAA tournament at home against Lipscomb.

The ACC and SEC tied for the most qualifiers with seven apiece. The Pac-12 has six teams in the tournament, and the Big Ten set a conference record with five NCAA teams.

Teams making their first appearances are conference tournament champions Radford (Big South), Florida A&M (MEAC), Houston Baptist (Southland) and Cal State Bakersfield (WAC).

Two teams got in with losing records: Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart (23-30-1) and Patriot League champ Lehigh (25-29).

Twenty-seven of the 64 teams were in the field last year.

Miami is in the tournament for a record 43rd consecutive year. Florida State qualified for a 38th year in a row.

According to the selection committee, the last four teams in the field were Maryland, South Florida, Oregon and Clemson. The first four out were North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan State and Southern Mississippi.

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