Road to Omaha starts with UC Irvine for Rebels

It didn’t take long for UNLV’s baseball team to discover its destination for the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament.

The Rebels (35-23) were the third team to pop up during the broadcast on ESPNU revealing the 64-team field shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday morning. And that’s a good news, bad news scenario.

The good news is that the anxiety of who and where was gone quickly. The bad news is that meant that the regular season Mountain West co-champions are in the same regional as the overall No. 1 seed, Oregon State (42-12).

UNLV, making its first NCAA appearance since 2005, is the No. 2 seed in the Corvallis Regional and will play No. 3 seed UC Irvine (35-22, 15-9 Big West) at 2 p.m. on Friday at Goss Stadium in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3. Top-seeded Oregon State faces North Dakota State (25-24, 10-12) of the Summit League at 8 p.m. on ESPNU in the other first round matchup of the double elimination tournament that runs through Monday night (if necessary).

“Tough,” was head coach Tim Chambers’ first word describing the bracket. But Chambers was happy the Rebels earned a No. 2 seed and also get to stay in the Pacific time zone.

“Mississippi, Gainesville (Fla.), man that travel is a nightmare,” Chambers said. “Glad that we’re going there. Tough bracket but … I’m happy we’re still a two (seed). This team has grinded it out all year long. I don’t know if there is a team in the country that has been through what we’ve been through as far as injuries are concerned. But they’ve kept fighting and hopefully we can get a couple of guys healthy by the time we get there.”

See the reaction of the team of the announcement as well as interviews with Chambers and pitcher John Richy in the VIDEO below.

The first round game would appear to be a favorable one for UNLV. UC Irvine comes into the tournament with a six-game losing streak, having been swept by both Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State to end the regular season, and have lost eight of their last nine. The Anteaters, coached by Mike Gillespie who directed USC to the 1998 national title, also dropped two out of three games to San Diego State at home last month.

Anteater junior right-hander Sam Moore leads the nation in saves with 23. Junior first baseman Connor Spencer ranks third in the Big West with a .361 batting average and senior right-hander Andrew Morales (9-2, 1.56 ERA) is second in the league in wins.

The winner will then have to likely deal with Oregon State on Saturday night at 8 p.m. The Beavers are hosting an NCAA Regional for the fifth time in school history, and have gone a combined 12-0 in 2005, 2006, 2011 and 2013. Oregon State advanced to the 2014 postseason by winning the Pac-12 Conference with a 23-7 league record.

Mountain West Tournament champion San Diego State (42-19) was the only other conference team to be selected and is a No. 3 seed in the Lafayette (La.) Regional where they face Mississippi State (37-22) on Friday (Talk about your travel nightmare!).

Here’s the complete Corvallis Regional Schedule (All Times PST):
Game 1: No. 2 UNLV (35-23) vs. No. 3 UC Irvine (35-22), 2 p.m. ESPN3
Game 2: No. 1 Oregon State (42-12) vs. No. 4 North Dakota State (25-24), 8 p.m., ESPNU
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 8 p.m.
Game 5: Loser Game 4 vs. Winner Game 3, 2 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 8 p.m.
Game 7: Game 6 rematch (if necessary), 8 p.m.

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