Wright State baseball coach Greg Lovelady said his players have exhibited some split personalities this week as they prepare to face Notre Dame today in NCAA regional action in Champaign, Ill.
And Lovelady said that’s exactly how it should be.
“There have been smiles on the guys’ faces all week and definitely an excitement in the air,” Lovelady said. “It’s been great to see. That’s why I do this. I get a shot every year, but they only get four shots. These kids have worked really hard and talked about this and dreamt about this.
“But when we’ve stepped between the lines for practice this week, it’s been just like normal,” he continued. “That’s one of the things we talk about. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re not going here just to show up. We’re a 3 seed. We’ve got a shot to win some games and we want to try to win the regional.’ ”
The Raiders (41-15) are making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2011 after winning the Horizon League tournament as the No. 2 seed.
Notre Dame (36-21) is in the field for the first time since 2006. The Irish earned an at-large bid after falling to Miami in the losers’ bracket semifinals of the ACC tournament.
Host Illinois (47-8-1), the nation’s No. 6-ranked team, is the top seed and will face fourth-seeded Ohio University (36-19) at 8 tonight to complete the first round of the double-elimination tournament.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lovelady said. “But it’s not like we’re playing with house money. I’m not going with that mantra. This is another opportunity for us to get better and showcase the program and what we’ve done. We’re going to go out there and try to win the first pitch and go from there.”
Luke Mamer will get the start for Wright State. The senior right-hander is 4-2 in 11 starts with a 2.82 ERA.
“He’s been our guy all year,” Lovelady said. “He’s been the most consistent guy and has played a huge role in us winning the championship this past week. We just feel like it’s the best matchup for this game. He’s a senior and has worked really hard for this, so we’re going to give him the ball and give him a shot and see what he can do.”
Wright State is 3-3 all-time against Notre Dame, with the most recent meeting coming in 2006 when the Raiders won 4-2 in South Bend, Ind.
Even though WSU has not faced the Irish in nine years, Lovelady said he has a good idea what to expect.
“ESPN3 has been huge,” he said Wednesday afternoon before boarding the bus for Champaign. “I watched three Notre Dame games in the last two days. And I’ve watched a little bit of an Illinois game. I’ll be watching video on the whole ride over. I think we have a good amount of information. We just have to study and do what we can.”
And he hopes that will keep the smiles around through the weekend.
“In the recruiting process, we talk about this is why they come here,” Lovelady said. “It’s good to see, especially the seniors who are in this for the first time in their last shot. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot the last few days. It’s really rewarding to see the smiles on all their faces.”