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East Carolina players, coaches and fans already know the answer to part of the question. Now, they're on edge to find out if a follow-up response they won't hear until later today is even relevant to the equation.

The NCAA baseball selection committee announced Sunday that N.C. State will serve as host at Wilson's Fleming Stadium for one of 16 regionals in the 64-team postseason tournament that ultimately leads to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

That cleared up part one of the curiosity, confirming that the venerable old facility located 45 minutes west of ECU's Greenville campus would be chosen as the site for a four-team shootout pitting the Wolfpack against three other teams — possibly including East Carolina.

Will the Pirates extend their four-year string of NCAA regional berths and be invited to join a Wilson extravaganza that could potentially include UNC Wilmington and Western Carolina?

The answer to that final part of the equation will come during the "Road to Omaha" show which will be telecast from 12:30-1:00 p.m. today by ESPN2.

If the answer is yes, 'Scalpers, start your engines!' You might just cash in on what could be the hottest ticket in the history of college baseball in North Carolina.

ECU was the top seed, host and eventual champion of the 2000-01 regional in Wilson, the first time the tradition-steeped home of the long-defunct Wilson Tobs minor league franchise had been chosen as an NCAA site.

Wilson is not the only regional site of more than passing interest to ECU fans. Southern Mississippi, which on Saturday stopped the Pirates' drive to win a second straight C-USA title, was named to host a regional in Hattiesburg. For the Golden Eagles, who defeated Tulane on Sunday for the league championship, serving as the host school will be a first.

The selection of USM as a host site marks the fourth time in the last five years that a C-USA school has played host to an NCAA Regional. Houston hosted regionals in 1999 and 2000 and Tulane served as a host site in 2001.

Big 12, ACC, SEC flex hosting muscle

Defending College World Series champion Texas, trying to become just the fifth repeat winner, was one of 16 schools selected Sunday as regional site hosts for the NCAA Division I tournament.

The Longhorns, who beat South Carolina in last year's championship game, joined fellow Big 12 members Nebraska and Texas A&M as host schools, as announced by the Division I baseball committee.

The Atlantic Coast Conference — with Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State — and the Southeastern Conference — with Auburn, Louisiana State and Mississippi State — also have three schools hosting.

The other regional hosts are: Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, Miami, Rice, Southern Mississippi and Stanford.

"We're very fortunate in our policy and our guidelines to be able to stress the success and quality of teams when we're selecting," said committee chairman Charlie Carr, the senior associate athletic director at Florida State. "Those who played the best, we tried to reward."

All 16 host schools were guaranteed berths in the 64-team tournament, which starts Friday. The rest of the field will be announced by the committee on Monday.

"Geography does play a role in the selection," Carr said. "Our job as a committee is to try, in every way possible, to put college baseball on the national scene."

All of the regionals will be played on campus sites, except at North Carolina State, which will be played at Fleming Stadium in Wilson, N.C., and Arizona State, which will be played at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Long Beach State, North Carolina State and Southern Miss are hosting regionals for the first time, although Fleming Stadium has been a regional site in the past.

"We want to reward a team that has done very well during the season with a site for the first time," Carr said. "That's how you spread the game of baseball."

Arizona State, Florida State, Georgia Tech, LSU, Nebraska, Rice, Stanford and Texas also hosted last year.

Carr said the committee received a total of 36 bids to host, and the selection process was difficult.

"There were a lot of sites that were deserving of hosting," Carr said. "I wish we had a lot more opportunities — I wish we had 36 sites."

The four-team, double-elimination regionals will be played from May 30-June 1. The winners of each regional will advance to the super regionals, played June 6-9.

The eight winners of the super regionals will play in the College World Series, which starts June 13 in Omaha, Neb.

Texas, hosting a regional for 32nd time, has won five national titles — including consecutive championships in 1949-50. The Longhorns are also trying to join Southern California (1970-74), Stanford (1987-88) and Louisiana State (1996-97) as repeat winners.

Thirty Division I conferences receive an automatic berth in the field of 64, along with 34 at-large selections. The 57th College World Series begins play Friday, June 13, at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright 2003 All rights reserved. The Associated Press and Conference USA contributed to this report. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

02/23/2007 10:44:16 AM

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