The UCLA baseball team will have to go through defending national champion LSU and local rival UC Irvine if it hopes to advance past the Los Angeles Regional next weekend.
That's perfectly fine for the Bruins, who erupted in their clubhouse at Jackie Robinson Stadium when they learned that they had received the NCAA Tournament's No. 6 overall seed on Monday morning.
"It's the best regional and it's definitely the toughest," junior pitcher Rob Rasmussen said. "But we wouldn't have it any other way."
Said sophomore infielder Tyler Rahmatulla: ""It doesn't matter who we play. We're just going to play the same way we've been playing all year."
UCLA will play No. 4-seeded Kent State (39-23) on Friday night, following the highly anticipated matchup between No. 2 LSU and No. 3 UC Irvine at the Jack. The losers of each game face off Saturday in a win-or-go-home scenario, while the winners play to move on in the winner's bracket.
The four-team Regional is already being pegged as the "Group of Death" -- and it's hard to argue against that. UCLA (43-13) finished second in the Pac-10 Conference, which sends eight of its 10 schools to the tournament. LSU won the SEC Tournament over the weekend, while UC Irvine (37-19) placed second in the Big West behind Cal State Fullerton. Kent State won five games last weekend to claim the Mid-American Conference Tournament title.
"We're very proud of what we've done," UCLA head coach John Savage said. "Earning a national seed is a big accomplishment. Certainly playing on the West Coast and playing in the Pac-10, to get out of that the way we did, shows a lot about the character of our team. We knew it was going to be a very difficult regional -- that's what the postseason is. There's no surprises."