For the second straight year, the Arizona Wildcats baseball team will start its NCAA Regional run in Texas.
The UA was assigned a No. 2 seed in the College Station, Texas Regional when the NCAA Tournament brackets were announced morning. The Wildcats will face Seton Hall Friday, with the winner and loser facing Texas A&M or Wright State. The double-elimination tournament could run through Monday.
The Wildcats punched their ticket to the postseason with a stellar final month of the season. They went 10-3 in May, with all of their losses coming by one run.
Sunday, the UA completed a three-game sweep of Washington with an 8-2 win at Kindall/Sancet Stadium. Arizona finished the regular season 36-19 overall, its best record since 2008, and 15-12 in Pac-10 play. The Wildcats finished in fourth place in the Pac-10; the three teams ahead of them - UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona State - are all hosting a regional this week.
Arizona had hoped to earn a bid to the Fullerton, Calif., Regional but knew it would be a long shot. The NCAA instead placed Stanford, which finished a half-game behind Arizona in the Pac-10 standings, as a No. 2 seed in the Southern California bracket. The College Station selection confirms what many on the team suspected following Sunday's win: That the Wildcats would be sent back to the Lone Star State. Four Texas-based schools - Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Rice - will host regionals this weekend.
The UA is familiar with Texas. Arizona spent the 2010 season in Fort Worth, Texas, a regional that was eventually won by host TCU. Arizona, a No. 3 seed, defeated Baylor in its first game, then lost to the Horned Frogs in the winner's bracket before being eliminated.
This year's bracket will be similarly tough. Seton Hall (33-23) won the Big East Conference Tournament, but has the most losses of any team in Arizona's regional. Texas A&M (42-18) was a surprising winner of the Big 12 Conference Tournament, and Wright State (36-17) is a winner of the Horizon League Tournament.
However, many believe the short-series nature of the regionals could play to the UA's strengths. Ace Kurt Heyer and No. 2 starter Kyle Simon are a combined 18-6 this season. Reliever Bryce Bandilla and Tyler Hale combined to pitch five scoreless innings in Sunday's win; closer Matt Chaffee, the star of the bullpen this season, warmed up late in the game but was not needed.
Coach Andy Lopez said Sunday that his team "can go as far as our pitching will take us."