INDIANAPOLIS - The University of California San Diego has qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship West Regional, it was announced Sunday evening by the NCAA. It marks the milestone 50th edition of the Division II tourney.
UC San Diego (36-17) is the No. 4 seed, and will open against No. 3 seed Dixie State (37-12-1), of St. George, Utah, on Thursday, May 18, in primetime at 7 p.m. The six-team, double-elimination tournament will take place at Cougar Baseball Complex on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Thursday through either Sunday, May 21, or Monday, May 22.
Top-seeded Chico State (45-9) added the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship title to its regular-season crown Saturday in Stockton, and thus earned the league's automatic berth in the West. The Wildcats are not able to host at their Nettleton Stadium, however, due to a schedule conflict with commencement ceremonies on campus. No. 2 seed APU is therefore the beneficiary.
Azusa Pacific (40-10) is the automatic entrant from the Pacific West Conference (PacWest) as its regular-season champion.
California Baptist (34-16) and two-time reigning West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona (33-20) join UCSD and Dixie State as at-large qualifiers, seeded fifth and sixth, respectively. Impressively, all six West Regional participants appeared in the most recent Collegiate Baseball Newspaper national poll on May 8, with Chico State at No. 6, APU at No. 8, Dixie State at No. 9, CBU at No. 20, UCSD at No. 21, and CPP at No. 29.
UCSD, Chico State and CPP are representing the CCAA, with the remaining three teams all from the PacWest. APU, Dixie State and CBU finished 1-2-3 in those standings. The Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) does not receive an automatic bid, with 2012 the most recent year in which a GNAC club was selected.
Three games will be contested on each day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 18-20, with start times designated as 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The West Region title game will take place on Monday, May 22, at 1 p.m., with the possibility of an if-necessary nightcap at 4 p.m.
Thursday's confirmed schedule has host APU and CBU opening up at 11 a.m. Top seed Chico State will take on CPP at 3 p.m. The day's action will conclude with UCSD contesting the lone cross-league matchup with Dixie State in primetime at 7 p.m.
Thursday night's initial matchup for the Tritons is a first against Dixie State since an elimination game of the 2015 NCAA West Regional in Walnut on May 16, 2015, a contest that UCSD won by the final score of 7-0 en route to the final. That result came as a three-hit shutout from four right-handers, with current upperclassmen John Erhardt, Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), and Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) each tossing an inning to close it out. Cruz (7-2, 4.38 ERA) would incidentally be the projected starter on Thursday night, based on UCSD's rotation the last four weeks.
UCSD is 1-2 all-time against the Trailblazers, with all three meetings in NCAA postseason play. Dixie State won twice at the 2012 West Regional in Keizer, Ore. DSU is making a sixth straight West Regional appearance, the longest current streak.
Single-day ticket prices are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and military with identification and seniors 55 and older. Children aged two and younger will be admitted free. Tickets are good for day-of-games only, and will be available for purchase 60 minutes prior to the start of the first game each day. Parking will be available in Lot A, about 50 yards north of Cougar Baseball Complex.
All games of the West Regional will feature live stats and a live video stream, free of charge with no subscription required, through APU Athletics.
Eight regionals will be contested in the coming week, with two of the eight-team variety, four seven-teamers, and a pair with six to make up 56. The West Region champion will be joined by the other seven regional winners in Grand Prairie, Texas, at The Ballpark in Grand Prairie, home of the Texas AirHogs, an independent professional team. The site had been temporarily moved from Cary, N.C., site of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship at the USA Baseball National Training Complex the past eight seasons. That final round takes place May 27-June 3.
UCSD will be making its ninth NCAA Division II Championship appearance, with a record of 21-16 (.568). The Tritons are in the field for the fourth time in head coach Eric Newman's six years. They made six successive regionals from 2007-12, and then advanced into back-to-back West Region finals in 2014 and 2015. UCSD lost out to Chico State in 2014 at Triton Ballpark, and Cal Poly Pomona in 2015 at Mt. SAC's Mazmanian Field in Walnut. The Tritons have two West Region championship trophies and subsequent trips to Cary, in 2009 and 2010.
UCSD previously went 9-15 (.375) over five trips (1986-87-89-92-94) to the NCAA Division III Championship, also with a pair of regional crowns in 1987 and 1994.