Wright State University outfielder Mark Fowler knew that the Raiders name was going to pop up during the NCAA selection show Monday afternoon, still the wait was a little tough.
“It is nerve-wracking,” the redshirt senior said. “You know you are in, but you want to see your name pop up so bad … you never forget that feeling. It is incredible.”
The Raiders had plenty of company watching the selection show on ESPNU, as friends and family packed TJ Chumps in Fairborn for a watch party.
Wright State (41-15) is the No. 3 seed in the Champaign, Ill. Region. The Raiders open play at 1 p.m. Friday against No. 2 Notre Dame (36-21) in the double-elimination regional. Host Illinois (47-8-1) is the top seed. The Illini will face Mid-American Confernece champion Ohio (36-19) at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Raiders are making their first NCAA appearance since 2011 and their fifth overall in Division I.
“It is exciting to see the smiles on the kids faces,” Wright State coach Greg Lovelady said. “They have put a lot of work in and it was nice to see them so happy. It is good to see the work come to fruition. And, being a three seed is a lot of credit to the kids and I think that says a lot about where our program is at.”
Notre Dame and Wright State have a common opponent — the University of Miami.
The Irish fell to the Hurricanes 6-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals. Wright State lost a pair of one-run games at Miami early in the season.
“I think the teams we played earlier in the year made us better and prepared us for this,” Wright State pitcher Jeremy Randolph said. “And our conference has pretty good teams in it.
The Irish are led by Kyle Flala with a .301 average and Ryan Smoyer (9-0, 2.13 ERA).
E.J. Trapino leads Wright State with a 8-0 mark and 2.55 ERA while Randolph – a freshman from Miamisburg – is 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA. Fowler (.341, 38 RBIs) is the Raiders’ top hitter.
“I think I will be more ready to take care of business,” Fowler said. “I’m sure there will be butterflies in the stomach, but that will wear off in batting practice and when the first inning comes along we will be locked in and focused.
Fowler hopes the closeness of the regional — about a four-hour drive — will enable Raiders fans to make the trip.
“It is crucial for us,” Fowler said of the support the team has received from its fans. “We rely on the fans a lot. Whenever we get down, they are always cheering and are big for us. It is a little bit of an advantage for us with them there backing us the whole way.”
The winner of the Champaign region faces the Nashville region winner in one of eight super regionals.