INDIANAPOLIS - The 25th-ranked University of California San Diego will be headed back to Azusa to defend its West Regional title, as selections were announced Sunday night for the 2018 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship.
UC San Diego (38-15) is the No. 3 seed. The Tritons are one of two automatic entries, as champions of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship. They wrapped up a perfect 4-0 run through the six-team, double-elimination tournament with a 5-1 victory over Cal Poly Pomona on Saturday in Stockton, for a record seventh tournament banner.
Azusa Pacific (39-9) is the other automatic qualifier as the champion of the Pacific West Conference (PacWest) regular season for the second year in a row. The second-seeded Cougars will also serve as the host a second straight time at Cougar Baseball Complex. They edged Point Loma by a game in the PacWest race for that auto berth, taking the winner-take-all finale of their critical series in Azusa, 15-11, last Wednesday, to rally for a split of that set after dropping the first two meetings.
Cal State Monterey Bay (38-16) is the top seed, but is unable to host due to not having lights at its Otter Sports Complex. The Otters finished the 44-game CCAA slate with an identical 30-14 league record as the Tritons. With the teams having split their own four-game series, the next tiebreaker was winning percentage against the CCAA Championship field, which went to CSUMB for the regular-season title and top seed in Stockton.
This is the second straight year that the top seed is not able to host, as Chico State was in that same scenario a season ago as double champion of the CCAA regular season and tournament, but annually having commencement ceremonies conflicting with the dates of the West Regional.
UC San Diego will open against fourth-seeded city rival Point Loma (33-16) on Thursday, May 17, in primetime at 7 p.m. The six-team, double-elimination tournament will continue through Monday, May 21, with an off day on Sunday.
California Baptist (33-17) and Chico State (31-22) join Cal State Monterey Bay and Point Loma as at-large qualifiers, seeded fifth and sixth, respectively. The most recent Collegiate Baseball Newspaper national poll on May 7 had Azusa Pacific at No. 5, Cal State Monterey Bay at No. 16, and UC San Diego at No. 25.
UC San Diego, Cal State Monterey Bay and Chico State are representing the CCAA, with the remaining three teams all from the PacWest. APU, Point Loma and CBU finished 1-2-3 in those standings. The Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) does not receive an automatic bid until next season, with 2012 still the most recent year in which a GNAC club was selected.
Three games will be contested each day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 17-19, 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 21, at 12 p.m., with the possibility of an if-necessary nightcap following about 30 minutes after the conclusion.
Thursday’s confirmed schedule has host APU and CBU opening up at 11 a.m., just like they did last year. Cal State Monterey Bay will take on Chico State at 3 p.m. The day’s action will conclude with UC San Diego contesting the lone cross-league matchup with Point Loma at 7 p.m.
Thursday night’s initial matchup for the Tritons is a first against Point Loma since an elimination game of the 2015 NCAA West Regional in Walnut on May 15, 2015, a contest that UC San Diego won by the final score of 7-5 en route to the final. The Tritons are 45-39-1 all-time against the Sea Lions.
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, back in Cary, N.C., after being held in Grand Prairie, Texas, last season. The site had been temporarily moved, but makes its return to the USA Baseball National Training Complex. It was staged there the previous eight seasons. The final round takes place May 26-June 2.
UC San Diego will be making its 10th NCAA Division II Championship appearance, with a record of 29-18 (.617). The Tritons are in the field for the fifth time in head coach Eric Newman’s seven 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.
After a one-year hiatus, the Tritons returned to the tournament in a big way a year ago. They first swept through four games at the West Regional in Azusa. That gave UC San Diego three Division II West Region championship trophies, having made prior trips to Cary, in 2009 and 2010. The Tritons lost their opener at the 2017 NCAA Championship in Texas in extra innings, before winning four games over five days to advance all the way into the national finals. Needing to beat West Chester twice on the final day, they succumbed in the first matchup with the Golden Rams, 5-2, to finish as runners-up.
UC San Diego went 9-15 (.375) over five trips (1986-87-89-92-94) to the NCAA Division III Championship, with a pair of regional crowns in 1987 and 1994.