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Play ball! Things to know entering the NCAA baseball regionals

The NCAA baseball tournament opens Friday with play in 16 double-elimination regionals.

Regional winners advance to best-of-three super regionals next week, and the final eight go to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning June 14.

WHO’S HOT

The two hottest teams are in the regional at Santa Barbara, California. Host UC Santa Barbara (42-12) of the Big West has won a school-record 14 straight games for the nation’s longest active streak and is 25-0 at home. West Coast Conference champion San Diego (40-13) has won 10 in a row and 18 of its last 19.

WHO’S NOT

No. 5 national seed Arkansas (43-14) and and No. 7 Georgia (39-15) each have lost three straight, all against Southeastern Conference opponents.

The Razorbacks closed the regular season with a 14-4 loss to Texas A&M in a seven-inning game ended by the 10-run rule, and they dropped games to South Carolina and Kentucky in the SEC Tournament. Arkansas hadn’t lost three straight since April 2023.

Georgia dropped two at home to Florida to end the regular season and lost to LSU in its SEC Tournament opener. The Bulldogs also lost three straight in a March series at Kentucky.

STILL WAITING

The No. 1 national seed has not won the championship since Miami in 1999, the first year of the current tournament format. Tennessee (50-11) will try to break through this year.

East Carolina (43-15) has never reached the College World Series in 33 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the longest streak of its kind. The Pirates are in the field for the eighth time in nine years.

Clemson (41-14) has never won a national championship, or finished as runner-up, in 45 previous appearances.

WELCOME TO THE PARTY

High Point, Niagara and Northern Kentucky are making their first appearances in the Division I national tournament.

The Panthers (34-25) of High Point, North Carolina, won the Big South Conference and have their first winning record since 2018. Niagara (38-15) won the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference and is on an eight-game win streak. Northern Kentucky (35-22), which became a full-fledged Division I member in 2016-17, won the Horizon League.

TOUGHEST REGIONAL

The Tucson Regional has no lightweights, and host Arizona (36-21) has first-hand knowledge of that.

No. 4 regional seed Grand Canyon (34-23) has won two of three against the Pac-12 champion Wildcats this season, including a 24-8 beatdown in Tucson that was stopped after seven innings by the 10-run rule. No. 2 Dallas Baptist (44-13) is the only non-Power Five program to make 10 straight NCAA Tournaments, and the Patriots’ are third nationally in wins. No. 3 West Virginia (33-22), looking to send out retiring coach Randy Mazey in style, won a series at Oklahoma and had sweeps against NCAA qualifiers Kansas State and UCF.

NO GUARANTEES

Since the tournament went to its current format, an average of just under 11 of the 16 regional hosts have advanced to super regionals.

The fewest regional hosts to advance were seven in 2007 and 2014, eight in 2018 and nine in 2017 and 2023.

HOMERS GALORE

Division I teams have combined to average 1.15 home runs per game, just ahead of the record of 1.14 set last year. Six teams are averaging at least two per game; only two average fewer than one.

The NCAA Tournament record is 452 homers in 2022.

CHARLIE IS A HORSE

Georgia slugger and SEC player of the year Charlie Condon heads a list of 19 players in regionals who are projected to be first-round picks in the Major League Baseball draft, according to MLB.com.

Condon’s 35 homers are most since Lance Berkman hit 41 for Rice in 1997, and his .443 batting average, .584 on-base percentage, 1.043 slugging percentage and 219 total bases lead the nation.

HAGEN HOGTIES ‘EM

SEC pitcher of the year Hagen Smith of Arkansas leads the nation with a 1.48 ERA, 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.2 hits per nine innings. The lefty, one strikeout from David Walling’s school record of 155 in 1999, could be the first pitcher taken in the draft.

GEOGRAPHY LESSON

The state of North Carolina has seven teams in regionals, most among the 28 states represented in the tournament.

Duke, East Carolina, High Point, NC State, North Carolina, UNC Wilmington and Wake Forest are the Tar Heel State schools that earned bids.

Louisiana has six teams in the tournament — Grambling, Louisiana-Lafayette, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Nicholls and Tulane.

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This version corrects the start date for the College World Series to June 14.

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AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports

By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer

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