Belmont faces unfamiliar foes in return to NCAA tournament

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 5:38pm
Staff reports

Perhaps there will come a day when nothing about the NCAA baseball tournament is new to Belmont.

For now, the Bruins will have to take what they can get, which is the familiarity that comes with playing in an NCAA regional for the second straight year. That’s because they never have faced any of the opponents they will encounter beginning Friday at the Baton Rouge (La.) regional

Belmont (39-22), on Monday, was named the No, 3 seed at the site, which includes No. 1, seventh overall seed and host LSU (43-16), No. 2 Oregon State (238-18) and No. 4 Louisiana-Monroe (31-28).

Belmont faces Oregon State in the opener at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Bruins’ made their NCAA tournament debut last year at Vanderbilt in a regional that also included Troy, teams they routinely face during the regular season. They finished runner-up to the Commodores in that one.

They earned their way into the field this time when they successfully defended their Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship. That came after a three-game sweep of Lipscomb lifted them to the conference’s regular-season title on the final weekend of play.

"I know the team is very excited," coach Dave Jarvis said Monday.  "We get to draw on our experience from last year's Regional with all of our returning lettermen.

“I think traveling to LSU this year, a place these guys have not been before, is a big reason for the excitement."

A look at the other teams in the Baton Rouge regional:

• LSU was the top seed for last week’s SEC tournament and led the conference in runs scored. Outfielder Raph Rhymes leads the nation with a .459 batting average. Its pitching staff tied for the conference lead with 516 strikeouts. Sophomore Kevin Gausman (10-1, 2.84 ERA) has a team-high 125 strikeouts.

• Oregon State is in the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year (a program record) and the seventh time overall. It has matched its highest win total in a single season following a three-game sweep last weekend of Oregon, one of the eight national seeds. Freshman Michael Conforto has a school-record 71 RBIs, and he has 13 of the team’s 34 home runs.

• Louisiana-Monroe is the Sun Belt Conference champion. Its pitching staff features left-hander Randy Ziegler, an LSU transfer. He pitched for the Tigers in 2009 before injury issues prompted a transfer.