Nebraska coach Darin Erstad had three firsthand looks at Creighton’s baseball team this year, which is why he’s not surprised to see the Bluejays playing in the NCAA tournament.
“The formula’s been pretty well set in stone,” he said. “If you can pitch and play defense — which they can very well — whoever gets hot swinging the bats in tournament time is going to be successful. … That’s a good combination for winning in the postseason.”
Regional play begins today. The Bluejays (26-28) visit No. 2 national seed UCLA at 9 p.m. The Bruins (42-14), like Erstad, are well aware of Creighton’s recent hot streak (read Steven Pivovar’s preview story).
The Huskers won two of three against Creighton this year, but NU’s season ended in the Big Ten tournament last week. Erstad will still be watching the Bluejays and the rest of the NCAA tournament teams over the next few weeks.
“I love learning,” said Erstad, who just finished his first season at Nebraska. “You never know when you might play one of those teams. You might pick up a play you like. It’s that, and I love baseball.”
Well, if Erstad will be paying attention — then, so should you! Action’s already underway. Below is a quick guide to today’s lineup …
No. 1 seed Florida State vs. No. 4 seed UAB (5 p.m. via ESPN3). Thirty-five straight NCAA Regional appearances for coach Mike Martin (featured by the New York Times here), but ZERO national titles. Is this the year? The Seminoles have won 13 straight Regional games.
Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, maybe next week’s No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft, will throw at 8 p.m. today against Fresno State (ESPN3). The right-hander’s stats: 9-1 with a 2.37 ERA, tossing four complete games and striking out 116 batters (walking 24) in 110 innings.
Oral Roberts has reached 15 straight Regionals, so the Golden Eagles — despite getting swept by Baylor to start the year — won’t be intimidated (6 p.m. first-pitch). The Bears, by the way, are 5-6 in their last 11 games. … Also watch out for Stony Brook over Miami (6 p.m.) and Missouri knocking off Arizona (10 p.m. on ESPNU).
DID YOU KNOW?
The NCAA selection committee rewarded Michigan State with a spot in the 64-team field this year, the first Big Ten team to receive an at-large bid since 2009 (the league’s never had more than two at-large teams in the same tourney since the NCAA switched to this format in 1999). Sparty plays Pepperdine at 3 p.m. on ESPN3.
DAILY OMAHA EIGHT (my current clubhouse favorites)
Stanford, UNC, Rice, UCLA, Oregon, LSU, South Carolina and Florida.