Behind North Stanly product, Wake Forest tabbed No. 1 overall for NCAA baseball tournament

Published 3:40 pm Monday, May 29, 2023

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AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Wake Forest, which leads the nation in wins and has not lost consecutive games, was named the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament on Monday, and the Southeastern Conference had a record-tying 10 teams picked to play in regionals.

The 64-team tournament opens Friday in 16 regionals. Winners advance to eight best-of-three super regionals. Those winners move on to the College World Series in Omaha.

The top eight national seeds are assured of hosting super regionals if they win their regionals.

“To be the No. 1 national seed is a tremendous accomplishment for our program,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. “To do that, you have to demonstrate both consistency and toughness. We have battled through four season-ending injuries on the mound, four temporary injuries to key position players and rebounded quickly from tough losses.”

The national seeds following Wake Forest are Florida (44-14), Arkansas (41-16), Clemson (43-17), LSU (43-15), Vanderbilt (41-18), Virginia (45-12) and Stanford (38-16).

Seeds Nos. 9 through 16: Miami (40-19), Coastal Carolina (39-19), Oklahoma State (41-18), Kentucky (36-18), Auburn (34-21-1), Indiana State (42-15), South Carolina (39-19) and Alabama (40-19).

The last four teams to get bids, in alphabetical order, were Arizona (33-24), Louisiana (40-22), Oklahoma (31-26) and Troy (39-20). The first four out were Arizona State (32-23), Kansas State (35-24), Kent State (42-16) and UC Irvine (38-17).

The SEC matched the record it set in 2014 with 10 teams making the tournament. Of those, a record eight will host regionals.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has eight teams in the field, the Big 12 has six and the Pac-12 has five.

Division I Baseball Committee chairman John Cohen, the Auburn athletic director, acknowledged eight SEC hosts is “a big number” but noted that league teams combined to win 81.1% of their nonconference games.

“There was no discussion about (how) we need this many teams from the SEC or there’s too many or not enough,” Cohen said. “We do not do that with any leagues. No one is keeping a running total because if you are, you’re not picking the best teams.”

Wake Forest has been dominant on the mound and offensively and is the first ACC team awarded the top national seed since North Carolina in 2013.

The Demon Deacons are led by two-time ACC pitcher of the year Rhett Lowder (a North Stanly High graduate) and are first nationally with a 2.82 ERA and nine shutouts. Brock Wilken (27) and Nick Kurtz (23) have combined for 50 of Wake Forest’s 110 home runs, and the Deacons are averaging 8.9 runs per game.
They’ve been on the rise since going 20-27 two seasons ago. They made a regional and were 41-19-1 last year, and this year they started 26-3 on their way to their first ACC regular-season championship since 1963.

Wake Forest opens the tournament Friday against George Mason (34-25). Maryland (41-19) and Northeastern (44-14) also are in the Winston-Salem Regional.

Other notes about the tournament:

• Vanderbilt has the longest active streak with its 17th straight appearance. Texas is in the tournament for a record 62nd time. Florida State (23-31) saw its record-tying streak of regional appearances end at 44.

• Tulane (19-40), which won the American Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 7 seed, has the most losses of any team to ever make the national tournament. The Green Wave’s reward is a spot in the Baton Rouge Regional and an opening game against LSU.

• Arizona, at 12-18 in Pac-12 play, has the worst conference record of any team selected to the field since 2009.

• Summit League champion Oral Roberts is on the longest win streak in the nation, at 18 games. Clemson has won 16 in a row.

• Connecticut is in a regional for a fifth straight time for the first time since the 1950s.

• There are no teams making their first appearances, but Penn is in for the first time since 1995, Santa Clara for the first time since 1997 and San Jose State for the first time since 2002.

• Cohen said the committee has discussed ways to improve the RPI, one of the main tools used to evaluate teams. Cohen specifically wants to tweak the road record metric to give additional credit to teams that must travel long distances such as cold-weather teams going to the South or West for early season games.