Rutgers will be BYU's first round opponent at Lincoln, Nebraska in the 64 team NCAA Regional Baseball Championships this Friday.
Third-seeded BYU, 38-20, will play second-seeded Rutgers, 40-15, on Friday at 7 p.m. CDT. The other teams in that regional are top-seeded, host Nebraska, 45-14, who will play fourth-seeded Northern Iowa, 34-26, earlier on Friday.
On Saturday, the loser Game #1 plays the loser of Game #2, at 11 a.m. CDT in Game #3, followed by the winner of Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2 at 3 p.m. CDT in Game #4, followed by the winner of Game #3 vs. Loser Game #4 at 7 p.m. CDT in Game #5.
On Sunday, Game #6 would be the Championship between the Winner Game #4 vs. Winner Game #5, 1 p.m. CDT and perhaps Game #7--Game #6 rematch, if necessary, 50 minutes after Game #6. Game #6 and Game #7 could be played on Monday and perhaps Tuesday if BYU is involved because of no-Sunday play policy.
"Every regional is a tough draw, but we think we can play with anybody," said BYU Coach Vance Law. The Cougars recorded victories this season against several in the NCAA Regionals, Fresno State, Cal-Berkeley, Cal Fullerton and Oral Roberts.
Law, who won Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year honors in this his second season at BYU, indicated he isn't sure on his starting pitcher will be against the Scarlet Knights. However, he is leaning towards BYU's ace Nate Fernley who leads the nation in victories with a 16-2 record and a 3.12 ERA. Fernley was recently named MVP of the MWC Tournament which BYU won by beating San Diego State. BYU was also the MWC regular season champion with a 21-8 record.
Law indicated Cougar sophomore Matt Carson would be ready to return to right field by Friday. Carson, a first-team All-MWC performer, had back spasms which kept him out of the lineup for the last four games of last week's tournament. Carson, who has 18 home runs, joins Rutgers' sophomore pitcher Bobby Brownlie (5-3, 2.40) two of the 19 invitees to the U.S.A. Team Trials next month.
Senior tri-captain Seth King leads the Cougars with a current 16-game hitting streak. Tri-captain Shane Belliston served a two-year Church mission to New Jersey (Spanish-speaking) in the Rutgers area.
Rutgers has been ranked on and off during the season, just falling from No. 23 last week after losing a pair of games in the Big East Tournament. BYU has not been ranked at any time this season, while Nebraska is currently ranked number three and has been ranked between No. 1 and No. 18 throughout the season.
This is the first time BYU has met Rutgers and Northern Iowa. BYU has a 2-2 record against Nebraska, having beaten the Cornhuskers in 1985 at Fresno, Calif., and 1980 at Riverside, Calif., in regular season tournaments. Nebraska has beaten BYU twice in 1980 at the NCAA Regionals at Michigan.
The Cougars are scheduled to fly to Omaha on Wednesday afternoon, then drive to Lincoln. This is BYU's eight NCAA Regional appearance and the Cougars have a 7-16 record in that span. BYU last appeared in an NCAA Regional in 1994 at Tallahassee, Fla., where it lost on a Memorial Day to Florida State for the right to advance to the College World Series. BYU made appearances in the College World Series in 1968 and 1971, but had to decline invitations in 1958 and 1965 because of Sunday play.
If the Cougars face Nebraska later in the Regional, fans can listen to that game at http://www.broadcast.com/sports/ncaa/Nebraska/Baseball/.
If the Cougars play Northern Iowa, it will be broadcast over the Internet at http://www.uni.edu/athletic/broadcast.