Miami and FAU baseball split two regular-season meetings, but their third scheduled contest was rained out. The teams’ season series could be decided this weekend, but more than local bragging rights will be on the line.
The NCAA announced Monday that FAU will begin NCAA tournament play at the Coral Gables Regional, where Miami is the top seed. Last season, FAU advanced to the Gainesville Regional final before falling to Florida, which earned the top overall seed for this year’s tournament.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve played pretty well down at Mark Light [Field],” FAU coach John McCormack said. “I have the utmost respect for [Miami’s] program.”
The Owls, ranked 13th in Baseball America’s latest poll, open play Friday against Long Beach State, and a potential matchup with the No. 3 national seed Hurricanes looms.
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“I saw a lot of [the UM players] play when they were 14, 15, 16 years old,” McCormack said. “They played and were teammates with a lot of our guys.”
FAU often renews in-state rivalries in the NCAA tournament; this weekend’s Coral Gables regional will mark the Owls’ eighth trip to an in-state regional out of the 10 tournament berths in school history.
“I think for [Miami], it was a little bit of a tough draw,” McCormack said. “Everybody always says that geography works against us, but it works against the host team, too, sometimes.”
McCormack also said he hopes the NCAA will send teams outside their home regions for postseason play in the near future.
“We need to start spending some money and getting some national matchups …more like they do in basketball,” McCormack said. “I think those days are not too far away.”
FAU won’t be the only in-state team opening postseason play at a familiar ballpark. Bethune-Cookman, champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will head to the Gainesville Regional for the fifth time and open tournament play Friday against the Gators. The last time Bethune-Cookman faced Florida in the NCAA tournament, the Gators’ Jonathon Crawford threw a no-hitter in the 2012 postseason opener. The Wildcats, who are making their 15th NCAA tournament appearance in the past 18 seasons, faced the Gators once during the 2016 season, losing a midweek game 7-1 in early May.
Georgia Tech and Connecticut round out the Gainesville regional, as the Gators host the NCAA tournament’s first weekend for the seventh time in the past eight years.
For Florida to reach its 10th College World Series, the Gators must win their regional and defeat the winner of the Tallahassee regional in the super-regional round.
Florida State, the Tallahassee regional’s top seed and host, faces a tough field, which includes Conference USA tournament champion Southern Miss, Sun Belt regular-season champion South Alabama and Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion Alabama State.
If the Seminoles can advance to the super regionals, the top-seeded Gators may stand between Mike Martin’s team and a trip to Omaha for the second consecutive year. Florida knocked off Florida State in a super regional last season, and the Gators swept three midweek games from the Seminoles earlier this year.