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ESPNU made a point to mention Mark Mathias’ name when revealing which teams Cal Poly would host in the San Luis Obispo Regional on Monday.
To the sophomore second baseman, it didn’t matter that they pronounced it wrong — he felt fortunate enough to have some version of his name uttered on the ESPN family of networks.
“I wasn’t too mad about the wrong name, I was just pumped up that my name was actually on ESPN,” Mathias said. “People know that it was mispronounced, so I’m not really that mad or anything.”
On top of mentioning Mathias’ team-leading batting average heading into the postseason, Monday’s announcement revealed that Pepperdine, Arizona State and Sacramento State would be the teams rounding out the regional at Baggett Stadium.
The top-seeded Mustangs (45-10), hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history, will square off against No. 4 Sacramento State at 6 p.m. on Friday. No. 2 Arizona State will take on No. 3 Pepperdine in the tournament opener at 1 p.m.
The Hornets (39-22) head 300 miles south of Sacramento to participate in their first-ever NCAA Tournament since making the jump to Division I. They won the Western Athletic Conference’s regular season and tournament titles to earn the regional berth.Cal Poly and Sacramento State haven’t met since 2009, but the Mustangs hold the all-time advantage at 43-15, and have won the last seven meetings between the two teams, including a series sweep at Baggett the last time out.
“You’ve got to be a pretty good team to win your conference, and I’m sure we’ll be facing their No. 1 guy on Friday,” sophomore designated hitter Brian Mundell said. “They have some big hitters too, but playing at home is always going to be fun.”
The other two teams in the tournament are also hot. Arizona State (33-22) finished third in a loaded Pac-12 conference that featured No. 1 overall seed Oregon State this season, and the Sun Devils have won nine of their last 10 games.
Meanwhile, Pepperdine (39-16) won the West Coast Conference’s automatic bid and has gone 7-3 in its last 10 matchups. Cal Poly split the season series with the Waves, losing 11-4 in the first matchup in Malibu and winning the second game 5-1 at home later in the season.
Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said the Mustangs got a good draw for the regional, citing the fact that even though the West Coast is home to few teams, all are strong competitors.
The winner of the San Luis Obispo Regional will advance to the Super Regional round of the tournament, facing the winner of the Fort Worth Regional hosted by TCU. The winner of the three-game Super Regional series will go on to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
“Every team in this regional is a quality team,” Lee said. “Two of the teams came off a win in their conference tournaments, so that means they’re hot.”
Friday’s winners advance to a game on Saturday at 6 p.m., while the losers will play at 1 p.m. that day. Sunday’s 1 p.m. game will feature the winner of Saturday’s afternoon game and the loser of the evening game. The winner of the Saturday evening game will advance to a 6 p.m. game on Sunday and will face the winner of the game earlier in the day.
Unlike the other three teams, Cal Poly is coming off a bye week and hasn’t seen game action since sweeping Cal State Northridge in the final series of the regular season on May 16-18.
“I think it’s good for us having a weekend off just for our bodies to heal up and recuperate our soreness,” Mathias said. “I think it gives us kind of an advantage because we’re all fresh and other teams have been playing all weekend.”
Cal Poly junior southpaw Matt Imhof will toe the mound in Friday night’s opener, while sophomore pitcher Casey Bloomquist and freshman pitcher Justin Calomeni will round out the first three games for the Mustangs.