FAIRBORN — Wright State baseball coach Alex Sogard went into the NCAA selection show Monday expecting to be a four seed in a four-team regional and face one of the top national seeds on their home turf.
That’s not the way it happened. The Raiders were seeded fourth again, but instead of opening against a Southeastern Conference foe or another behemoth, they’ll be playing their first game against fellow mid-major Indiana State at 1 p.m. Friday.
The Sycamores (42-15) won the Missouri Valley Conference and were one of just two non-majors to be named one of the top 16 national seeds and host a regional. They were seeded 14th.
“I really like our draw,” Sogard said. “There’s been many years when we’ve thought we’d get a 13th, 14th or 15th national seed because, personally, I think we’re typically one of the strongest 4 seeds in the tournament. That hasn’t been the case.
“From that standpoint, I think the committee did a really good job in realizing we’re one of the best 4 seeds and matched us up with, as the host, one of the lower seeds.”
Indiana State went 24-3 in the MVC and have league pitcher of the year Connor Fenlong, who threw four shutouts.
North Carolina (35-22) will play Iowa (42-14) in the other opener at the Terre Haute regional at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Tar Heels will be making their 35th trip to the NCAAs and sixth in a row — despite going .500 in the ACC — and will face the Hawkeyes, who are two wins shy of a program record.
The four teams will play a double-elimination format with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals.
The Raiders are making their 10th NCAA trip and third in a row, but they’ve never made it out of the regional.
They went 2-2 in 2015 and ‘16, getting knocked out by the host teams.
“It’s hard to win in the postseason. Everyone is playing good baseball, and every night is a quality team. But I do think — like I’ve always said — we have the team to do it if we play our best baseball,” Sogard said.
The Raiders (39-21) had to come out of the losers bracket to win the Horizon League tourney — the first time they’ve captured the crown that way since their first title in 1995 — but they uncovered some pleasant surprises.
In the past, they haven’t had the arms to get through a regional. They lost to Tennessee, 9-8, on a walk-off grand slam and Duke, 14-6, in 2021. And they fell to Virginia Tech, 15-9, and Gonzaga, 11-9, last season.
But Sogard said: “I do like the depth we have on the mound this year, as opposed to other years. We’ve been pitching it much better the second half of the season.”
Indiana State is ninth in the college RPI, North Carolina 27th, Iowa 32nd and Wright State 77th.
But the Raiders played the Sycamores in a three-game series at home last year and won two of three.
“All these teams can hit. To stay in ball games, you have to pitch and play good defense,” Sogard said.
Wright State vs. Indiana State, 1 p.m., ESPN+