WSU Cougars

NCAA invites Cougs, Zags to its baseball tournament

Washington State and Gonzaga are returning to the NCAA baseball tournament Friday after long absences.

WSU has been away since 1990, while Gonzaga has been out since 1981.

The Cougars, one of three Pacific-10 Conference schools in the 64-team bracket, will open at 11 a.m. Friday against Arkansas in Norman, Okla.

At 3 p.m., the Bulldogs will play Georgia Southern in Fullerton, Calif.

“It’s a great day to be a Coug,” coach Donnie Marbut declared after the Cougars were selected to return to the tournament for the first time in 19 years.

WSU (31-23) is seeded third in the regional at Norman, Okla., where it will face second-seeded Arkansas (34-22). Host and top-seed Oklahoma, the seventh overall seed in the 64-team field, will open against Wichita State.

Norman is one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals this weekend. The survivors will advance to eight double-elimination super regionals, with survivors advancing to the College World Series starting June 13 in Omaha, Neb.

In a visit to Arkansas in February, the Cougars lost three close games. The teams are riding different trends now.

WSU has won nine of its past 12 games. Second-seeded Arkansas has lost 10 of its past 13, including an 11-1 loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

“We’re really excited with this draw,” WSU senior co-captain Jared Prince said. “We’re real excited to play them. We feel like we’ve got a real good shot.”

Gonzaga (35-16), as the West Coast Conference tournament champion, will face the Eagles (42-15), who won Southern Conference tournament.

“We know absolutely nothing about them,” Gonzaga coach Mark Machtolf said.

In a duel between right-handers, Gonzaga is expected to start senior Matt Fields (8-1, 2.86 ERA) opposite junior Chris Mederos (11-1, 3.66).

The regional host, Fullerton State, is the second overall seed in the tournament. The Titans will play a first-round game against Utah.

News Tribune correspondent Howie Stalwick contributed to this report.