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[ View complete field of 64 listing with team notes... ]

They didn't get an invitation to the regional closest to home, but they got the next best thing.

The next stop in the East Carolina Pirates' quest for Omaha will be Atlanta instead of nearby Wilson, where No. 1 seed N.C. State will host Western Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth and Le Moyne.

Still, the Pirates are not complaining. After an up and down season which saw them unseated as Conference USA Tournament champion, ECU will relish its underdog role after gaining its fifth straight NCAA postseason bid and the school's 19th overall in a tradition-steeped baseball history.

The Pirates will be the No. 3 seed at the regional in Atlanta hosted by ACC tournament champion Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will be the top seed in the event, which will be played on their home field, Russ Chandler Stadium.

Altogether, Conference USA schools were awarded four berths in the 2003 NCAA Baseball Championships. ECU is joined by league champion Southern Mississippi, Tulane and Houston in the playoffs, which will come to a climax in the College World Series in Omaha, NE.

The 64-team field was announced Monday by the NCAA's Division I baseball committee, which happens to be chaired by Florida State Senior Associate Athletic Director Charlie Carr, a former ECU athletic department administrator.

Southern Miss will host the Hattiesburg Regional as the No. 2 seed, while Tulane will be the No. 2 seed at the Baton Rouge Regional, Houston will play up the road in College Station as the No. 3 seed and East Carolina will travel to Atlanta as the No. 3 seed.

Only the SEC (8), ACC (5) and Big 12 (5) had more selections than C-USA.

Southern Miss (45-14) followed up its first-ever Conference USA regular season championship by winning the conference tournament this past weekend in New Orleans. The Golden Eagles will be hosting a regional for the first time in school history and will face Southwestern Athletic Conference Champion Southern (46-5) in its first game on Friday. Baylor of the Big 12 is the top seed in the regional.

Tulane (43-17) will making its sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and will participate in the Baton Rouge regional, hosted by No. 1 seed LSU, for the second straight year. The Wave will face UNC-Wilmington (38-21), a first-time selection out of the Colonial Athletic Association. UNCW is the alma mater of Tulane head coach Rick Jones.

Houston (32-27) is in the field of 64 for the fifth consecutive season and will face SEC Tournament champion Alabama (37-22), the No. 2 seed, in opening round play on Friday. The Cougars defeated the Crimson Tide earlier this season, 7-2, at the Astros College Classic on Feb. 15. Top-seeded Texas A&M is the host of the College Station regional.

East Carolina (35-22-1) received an NCAA bid for the fifth straight year and will open play on Friday against South Carolina (39-20) of the SEC in Atlanta. The Pirates received an automatic berth in last season's NCAA championship playoffs by winning the C-USA Tournament Championship. ACC tournament champion Georgia Tech is the region's host and No. 1 seed.

All four regionals will be staged from Friday, May 30, through Sunday, June 1. Winners will advance to two-team super-regionals, which will be played June 6-8 at sites to be determined. The 54th College World Series will take place June 13-23 at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.

The four bids to the 2003 NCAA Baseball Championships give Conference USA 23 NCAA appearances in its first eight seasons. During that span, three C-USA teams have advanced to Super Regional play and one of the programs, Tulane, reached the College World Series in 2001.

NCAA regionals involving C-USA teams

Hattiesburg Regional
Friday, May 30
No. 1 Baylor (41-21) vs. No. 4 Murray State (25-29)
No. 2 Southern Miss (45-14) vs. No. 3 Southern (46-5)

Baton Rouge Regional
Friday, May 30
No. 1 LSU (40-19-1) vs. No. 4 Northeastern (27-23)
No. 2 Tulane (43-17) vs. No. 3 UNC-Wilmington (38-21)

College Station Regional
Friday, May 30
No. 1 Texas A&M (43-17) vs. No. 4 Oral Roberts (41-18)
No. 2 Alabama (37-22) vs. No. 3 Houston (32-27)

Atlanta Regional
Friday, May 30
No. 1 Georgia Tech (44-16) vs. No. 4 Stetson (39-22)
No. 2 South Carolina (39-20) vs. No. 3 East Carolina (33-25-1)

[ View complete field of 64 listing with team notes... ]

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

02/23/2007 01:19:39 PM

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