After finishing one of the most dominant runs in Southeastern Conference history, Tennessee was selected the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament Monday.
The Volunteers (53-7) won 31 of their first 32 games, swept the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and have the best pitching and batting statistics in the nation.
They’ve been the consensus No. 1 team in the polls all but one week since March 28 and enter regionals having won eight straight and 12 of 13.
“It’s really cool to win the SEC Tournament,” Vols slugger Drew Gilbert said, “but we have bigger goals in mind and know we still have a lot of baseball in front of us.”
The 64-team tournament opens Friday in 16 regionals. Winners advance to eight best-of-three super regionals. Those winners move on to the College World Series in Omaha.
The top eight national seeds are assured of hosting super regionals if they win their regionals.
The national seeds following Tennessee: Stanford (41-14), Oregon State (44-15), Virginia Tech (41-12), Texas A&M (37-18), Miami (39-18), Oklahoma State (39-20) and East Carolina (42-18).
Stanford, which won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles, is a national seed for the first time since it was No. 2 in 2018. Oregon State gives the Pac-12 two of the top three seeds for the first time.
Virginia Tech, which was picked second to last in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division, has its highest seed in program history and will be playing in a regional for the first time since 2013.
Texas A&M won its last seven SEC series under first-year coach Jim Schlossnagle to lock up a national seed after not making the tournament last year.
East Carolina will play in the tournament for a 32nd time. The Pirates hold the distinction of having made the most appearances without reaching a CWS.
Seeds nine through 16: Texas (42-19), North Carolina (38-19), Southern Mississippi (43-16), Louisville (38-18-1), Florida (39-22), Auburn (37-19), Maryland (45-12) and Georgia Southern (40-18).
The ACC and SEC had the most teams selected, with nine apiece. The Big 12 and Pac-12 each got five teams in, and the Sun Belt Conference has four teams in the field.
Tennessee opens regional play against Alabama State (34-23). The other teams playing in Knoxville are Campbell (40-17) and Georgia Tech (34-22).
The Vols' surge to their best season in program history, so far, comes in coach Tony Vitello's fifth season. First baseman Luc Lipcius, a graduate student playing his sixth season, was on the 2017 team under Dave Serrano that went 7-21 in SEC play.
“When I came in here we weren’t expected to do much we were kind of the laughingstock of the SEC,” Lipcius said. “Coach V and the staff came in and did their thing. They recruit players and make them better. It's really awesome to see it come full circle.”
The last four teams picked for regionals were Florida State, Grand Canyon, Liberty and Mississippi. The first four out were North Carolina State, Old Dominion, Rutgers and Wofford.
Selection committee chairman and Army athletic director Mike Buddie said Ole Miss got the nod over N.C. State because it performed a bit stronger in regular-season conference series.
N.C. State and Ole Miss each won four of 10 conference series, but only one of the Wolfpack’s was against a team in the NCAA field (Georgia Tech) while the Rebels had series wins over LSU and Auburn.
“That was a brutal one,” Buddie said. “When it comes down to the last three or four teams, you have to really split hairs. Baseball is a game played in series. We weren’t looking at one-game scenarios unless that was the only data point.”
Other notes about the tournament:
— Florida State has the longest consecutive streak with 44 straight appearances. Other notable consecutive streaks include Vanderbilt (16) and Florida (14).
— Coppin State (24-28) and Hofstra (30-21) are making their first appearances. Air Force (30-27) is making its first since 1969.
— The best regional storyline could be a day two meeting between Texas A&M and TCU in College Station. Schlossnagle left TCU for the Aggies' job after last season. TCU's coach is Kirk Saarloos, who was an assistant under Schlossnagle for 10 years.
— Michigan (32-26) was one of the big bid stealers, swiping the Big Ten's automatic berth by winning the conference tournament as the fifth seed and denying Rutgers a spot.
— Coppin State is among three teams with losing records. The others are Binghamton (22-28) and New Mexico State (24-32).