• Interactive: 2012 NCAA men's baseball bracket
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Creighton's assignment in the NCAA baseball tournament might be more difficult had the national No. 2 seed gone to LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas or Baylor.
Instead, it went to UCLA, and the Bruins will pose a mighty challenge on the field when Creighton faces them in a first-round regional game Friday at 9 p.m. CDT. Still, the Bluejays know it's not as daunting as it could have been had the NCAA shipped them to Box Stadium in Baton Rouge or Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
“It could have been a lot worse for us,'' Creighton first baseman Nick Judkins said.
That's because UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium seats 1,820. The fans who will fill those seats might not bring the same degree of passion to the park as the beer-and-barbecue crowds that Creighton might have encountered if it were playing at Texas A&M, Louisiana State or Arkansas.
“I'm sure their fans get excited, but it's not going to be like having to play at a place where the crowd is really hostile,'' Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “We've played at some of those places, and it's tough to play there.
“We knew taking the road that we took that we were going to get matched up against a high-powered club. It doesn't surprise me we drew the No. 2 seed. It certainly won't be easy this week, but it wasn't easy last week.''
The Bluejays became one of the more surprising story lines for NCAA postseason play when they won four straight games to claim the Missouri Valley tournament title and the conference's automatic bid to regionals.
At 26-28, Creighton is one of two teams in the 64-team field with a losing record. The other, 25-30 Sacred Heart, got shipped to the regional at North Carolina State.
Servais and his players learned Monday morning that they were headed for the West Coast for the second straight year. The other two teams assigned to the Los Angeles regional are second-seeded San Diego (40-15) and No. 3 New Mexico (36-22).
The 2011 Bluejays played at the regional at Oregon State, where Creighton defeated Georgia of the Southeastern Conference in the first round. The Bluejays lost to the host school in the second round, then were eliminated in a third-round loss to Georgia.
The experience they gained last season, pitcher Ty Blach said, should benefit the players as they prepare for the game against the Bruins.
“We have so many guys back from that team and we have a ton of experience,'' Blach said. “We know what it's like to be in this situation. We'll use that to the best of our advantage and we'll be going there to make some noise.''
Blach will get the start against the Bruins, who earned the Pac-12's automatic berth in the 64-team field. UCLA and Arizona tied for the regular-season championship, but the Bruins got the spot by virtue of winning the head-to-head series with the Wildcats.
UCLA also was awarded the No. 2 overall seed behind Florida after compiling a 42-14 record. The Bruins have won 14 of their past 16 games to bring plenty of momentum into the regional.
Creighton, too, has some momentum heading into the tournament after struggling and finishing the regular season six games under .500. The Bluejays put that frustration aside with four wins in Springfield, Mo., to lock down their 10th trip to the NCAA tournament.
Making it, Judkins said, is just half the battle.
“We have to take that next step,'' he said. “We just can't be satisfied with getting there. We have to compete a little bit this weekend.''
Blach gives Creighton that chance, even against a UCLA lineup that hit .310 to rank 14th nationally. Blach is being projected as a fifth- to sixth-round pick in the upcoming professional draft. He had thrown 27-1/3 innings without allowing an earned run before getting roughed up a bit in the Valley tournament title game while pitching on short rest.
He'll have a chance to resume his normal routine in preparing for the Bruins.
“Not too many four seeds will have a guy like Ty Blach going,'' Creighton third baseman Chance Ross said. “I don't think UCLA can take him lightly. They're going to have to be prepared.''
In turn, Creighton knows it likely will be facing one of UCLA's top arms. At last year's regional, top-seeded Oregon State gambled in the first round and threw its No. 3 starter, saving its better arms for later in the tournament.
“It's like they said on TV, Creighton is not a normal four seed that maybe you can pitch off of,'' Servais said. “We saw that last year where Oregon State pitched off in the first game and saved their ace for us.
“I think that would be a dangerous thing for anyone to do against us now with the way we're playing and the way Ty is capable of shutting teams down. Ty gives us a chance against anybody. It's not going to be easy, but he gives us a chance.''
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