The Southeastern Conference will have 10 representatives in the upcoming 64-team NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, matching a record the league set in the 2014 tournament.
Among the sizable SEC contingent is Georgia, which had become a stranger to this event. The Bulldogs are making their first NCAA appearance since 2011 and their first under fifth-year coach Scott Stricklin, and they are doing so as one of the top eight seeds.
Despite losing both of their games at last week's SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama, the Bulldogs (37-19) were awarded the No. 8 overall seed. If Georgia wins its four-team regional that contains second-seeded Duke (40-15), third-seeded Troy (41-19) and fourth-seeded Campbell (35-24), the Bulldogs would host a super regional next week.
The 16 four-team regionals, which employ a double-elimination format, are scheduled to begin Friday and run through next Monday, if necessary.
"Having an opportunity to host is a credit to how the team has performed this year along with the support of our fans and administration," Stricklin said. "We look forward to playing again at Foley Field in front of our fans, as they've done an outstanding job cheering us on all season."
Georgia earned its highest overall seed since 2008, when the Bulldogs also were slotted No. 8 and wound up finishing runner-up nationally to Fresno State.
Next week's eight super regionals will be best-of-three series. The eight super regional winners will compete in the 72nd College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, which begins June 16.
Defending national champion and 2018 SEC regular-season champion Florida (42-17) is the top overall seed, though the Gators will enter NCAA play having lost six of their last seven games. Ole Miss (46-15) is the No. 4 overall seed and Arkansas (39-18) the No. 5, giving the SEC half of the top eight seeds.
SEC National Seeds:— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 28, 2018
No. 1 @GatorsBB
No. 4 @OleMissBSB
No. 5 @RazorbackBSB
No. 8 @BaseballUGA
* Ties the NCAA record for most Top-8 seeds by a conference (the @SEC also had four in 2016). pic.twitter.com/6ix5AY4gh2
Ole Miss is coming off its first SEC tournament title since 2006, having routed LSU 9-1 Sunday in front of a whopping 14,126 fans at Hoover Met. Sunday's crowd was the largest for an SEC title game since 1999.
"Our team has played really well and is very deserving of this," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said Monday in a news conference. "It's a team that hasn't been streaky. We finished well, but that's not what got us here.
"We played well from game one and finished it off."
Auburn (39-21), LSU (37-25), South Carolina (33-24), Mississippi State (31-25) and Vanderbilt (31-25) will be seeded second in their respective four-team pools this weekend, while Texas A&M (39-20) is seeded third. Vanderbilt's invitation Monday was its 13th straight to the NCAA field, the longest such streak of any SEC team.
Vandy won the College World Series in 2014 and was runner-up in 2015.
The SEC nearly had 11 teams in this year's NCAA tournament, but Kentucky was among the first four left out. The Wildcats were 34-22 overall and had a No. 30 ranking in the RPI (Rating Percentage Index), but they went 13-17 in SEC play and were bounced by Auburn 4-3 in 11 innings in last Tuesday's opening round of the SEC tournament.
"I think anybody that follows college baseball recognizes Kentucky has a great club, but there are some metrics we look at in the selection room, and one is sub-.500 against conference competition," NCAA tournament selection committee chair and former South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said on ESPNU. "There is only one team in the field (Texas A&M) that was sub-.500 against conference competition, and it was a glaring weakness against Kentucky.
"They were tied for the 10 seed going into the SEC tournament at four games under .500. Unfortunately, they lost their opener, which made them five games under. They have a tremendous team, but that was a trend we were looking at."
Also missing out among SEC teams were Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee. The Crimson Tide and Volunteers were the only programs that failed to qualify for last week's 12-team conference tournament, with Tennessee's drought of NCAA tournament appearances now reaching 13 seasons.
Missouri won the 2012 Big 12 tournament to acquire an automatic NCAA bid during its final season in that conference, but the Tigers have yet to reach NCAA play since joining the SEC.
This article is written by David Paschall from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.