- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Wright State baseball coach Jeff Mercer admitted he knows nothing about Stanford, the team the Raiders will face first in the NCAA tournament, but he said he knows the Cardinal are equally in the dark.
“I joked with my wife that when it said ‘Wright State,’ they probably pulled their phones out and Googled where Wright State is at,” WSU coach Jeff Mercer said following the team’s NCAA Selection Show watch party.
“They may not have even been sure if we were in the continental United States or not,” Mercer added. “Being so unfamiliar with the opponent, there will be a lot of scouting reports and phone calls and a lot of video and trying to watch and get a feel for the game. It will be a lot of work, but it will be a lot of fun.”
The Raiders (39-15) are the No. 4 seed in the Stanford regional and will play the top-seeded Cardinal (44-10) at 10 p.m. Friday on ESPN2.
No. 2 Baylor (36-19) will face No. 3 Cal St. Fullerton (32-23) at 5 p.m. in the first game of the double-elimination regional.
Stanford is the No. 2 overall seed in the 64-team tournament. The Cardinal are making their 31st appearance in the NCAA tournament but just their third since 2014 after qualifying 17 times in a 19-year span from 1994-2012.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” said Mercer, the Horizon League Coach of the Year. “They’re going to be one of the top teams in the country, and it’s up to us to out and compete like crazy like we always do.”
This will be Wright State’s third trip to the NCAA tournament in four years and ninth overall as a Division I program.
Mercer, the Horizon League Coach of the Year, has been a part of four of NCAA tournament teams, going as a player in 2009 and an assistant coach in 2015 and 2016 when the Raiders reached the regional championship.
WSU was a 3 seed for the first time in school history in 2015 when it fell to host Illinois in the regional championship, and the Raiders were a 3 seed again in 2016 when they lost to host Louisville.
Mercer said dropping to a 4 seed this year might provide some extra incentive for the players.
“I think there probably is a little bit of that with those guys thinking that was a possibility,” he said. ‘But to be honest with you, those guys are so tough and so mean that they don’t care. They just want to go play. They just want to go out and compete and have a chance to win a championship and a chance to win a regional.
“We’ve been to two regional finals in the last three years,” he continued. “So it’s time for us to take a step forward and win a regional and this an opportunity for us to do that.”
“Shock the world” was how WSU sophomore pitcher Ryan Weiss put it.
“I know what we’re capable of, and I know we can do it,’ he said. “We’re always the underdog no matter who we play, but I’m not doubting us at all.”
Led by Horizon League Player of the Year Gabe Snyder, the Raiders enter the tournament on an eight-game winning streak that has seen them score double-digit runs in six consecutive games for the first time in school history.
“We can’t control who we get to play, but I know the guys are ready for anybody,” said Snyder, who he knows a few of the Stanford players from playing summer ball with them.
“Any time I get another day to play baseball, it’s exciting, so I’m ready for it,” Snyder added.
The winner of the Stanford regional will play the winner of the Coastal Carolina regional in a best-of-three super regional June 8-11.