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Creighton and Nebraska face off in NCAA DI baseball

Omaha reaches out for hometown Creighton and the state’s University of Nebraska to make it there for the annual NCAA DI Baseball World Series

Most conference tournaments now underway, with the field of 64 then to be selected for the regions, Super Regions, and with the final eight playing in Omaha

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin

Creighton and Nebraska are two Division I schools that would love to make it to the NCAA College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Neb.

No better place for these two to gain the overwhelming support from their fans, and while Creighton, which is situated in Omaha, always has hopes, the Cornhuskers are now on the road to getting there and playing in the Elite Eight.

With three CWS appearances from 2001-05 as a member of the Big 12, Nebraska figured to be the team to beat when it moved to the Big 10 in 2011.

Well, it took six years, but the Big Red finally reached its goal, taking two of three at last place Penn State to finish a half-game ahead of Michigan. Under head coach Darin Erstad, who took over the year that Nebraska came into the Big 10, it was fine and dandy to finally haul off the title.

“I’d say we were in a down cycle when we changed conferences,” Erstad said. “Plus the Big 10 was becoming more competitive, and to see the depth of this conference from the time we’ve gotten here to now, I’m excited about the direction the Big 10 has taken.”

Fact: Indiana made the CWS in 2013 and earned a national top-seed the following year, and in 2015, Illinois got a national seed as a record five Big 10 schools made the NCAA tournament.

As for the Huskers, they are 34-18 overall, 16-7-1 in conference, and have won their last 13 of 17 starts entering the Big 10 tournament in Bloomington, Ind. They are the top-seed and open Wednesday against 8th seeded Purdue (29-25, 12-12).

This breakthrough came after Nebraska had finished as runner-up three times, and once as fourth and eighth. Now it was time to celebrate. Now it was time to give more thought to reaching Omaha.

The defending champion Coastal Carolina swept its three Sun Belt series and is 12-2 since April 29. The Chanticleers are 37-18-1 overall, 22-7-1 in their conference, but are No. 48 in the RPI and probably need to win their conference tournament in order to get a berth in the NCAA tourney for the 15th time since 2001.

In last year’s finals, the South Carolina school won the best-of-three against Virginia in a nail-biting, tense, rousing series before an overflowing crowd.

The current top-ranked school is Oregon State (45-4, 27-3), which swept Washington to set the Pac 12 record for wins in a season. The Beavers’ 27 league wins are the most in the conference since Arizona State won in 1981.

Because the conference doesn’t have a tournament, they secured an automatic NCAA tournament berth by winning the regular season.

The Atlantic Coast Conference now being played in Louisville finds the host Cardinals (46-9, 23-6) as the top seed after edging out North Carolina (44-11, 23-7) despite losing to Florida State last weekend. The third game between the two was rained-out, cancelled, and it probably kept FSU from having its first-ever losing record in the conference. It wound up at 14-14 in conference play and is 35-20 overall.

In the Big 12, Texas Tech (42-13, 16-8) earned a share of the regular-season championship with a sweep of Kansas. The Red Raiders got the No. 1 seed based on their wins over co-champion TCU (29-14) in April.

In the Southeast Conference, its tournament is underway at Hoover, Ala., with Florida (40-15, 21-9) overcoming a spate of injuries to win 18 of its last 19 SEC outings after a 0-3 start. The Gators are the top seed over co-champion LSU (39-17), although the Bayou Tigers have gone 11-1 in their last 12 starts in conference. Both are on track to lock up berths in the national tournament.

The Mountain West Conference tournament is underway at University of New Mexico’s Santa Ana Star Field, with the host Lobos opening against Nevada at 7 p.m. This follows the afternoon contest paring San Diego State with Fresno State.

New Mexico is the No. 1 seed, Nevada No. 4. The 2nd and 3rd seeds, respectively, are San Diego State and Fresno State.

Nevada senior outfielder Michael Echavia was named MWC player of the week. He batted .600 (12-for-20), with eight RBI, two doubles, a triple, a home run, and scored seven runs.

Fresno State junior was selected as the MWC pitcher of the week. He went 6 1/3 innings against San Diego State, gave up three hits and did not allow an Aztec past first base.

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