Arizona State baseball returned to the NCAA Tournament on Monday, and coach Tracy Smith shaved off the substantial white beard that made him look like?David Letterman after "The Late Show."

                        The two are related in that ASU is finished with one season and into postseason for the first time in three years.?

                        "There's a symbolic piece to this," said Smith, who at first shaved all but a handlebar mustache to show his players during a team watch party of the NCAA pairings show before going fully clean-shaven. "It's a new season, now let's start a new streak."

                        ASU players are not necessarily following Smith's lead for their postseason debut. Only Cole Austin has played in the NCAA tourney before when he was at West Virginia in 2017.

                        "I'm not shaving," junior outfielder Carter Aldrete said. "Skip got soft on us, he shaved. His beard was nice. Now he looks a little younger. He's right, though. Our record is 0-0 now. It's postseason, everyone is equal, anyone could win at any time. We're just focusing on the task at hand."

                        UP NEXT
                        UP NEXT

                        The restart will be in Baton Rouge, La., where ASU (37-17) will play as a No. 2 regional seed, opening at 10 a.m. Friday against No. 3 seed Southern Mississippi (38-19). No. 13 national seed LSU (37-24) is hosting and opening against No. 4 regional seed Stony Brook (31-21).?The regional will continue at least through Sunday and perhaps into Monday.

                        a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: ASU's Hunter Bishop (4)(R) high-fives teammates after hitting a grand slam during the first inning against UCLA at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. on May 5, 2019.? Patrick Breen/The Republic ASU's Hunter Bishop (4)(R) high-fives teammates after hitting a grand slam during the first inning against UCLA at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz. on May 5, 2019.

                        Stony Brook upset LSU in a 2012 super regional to reach the College World Series.

                        The winner of the double-elimination Baton Rouge regional will play the winner of the Athens, Ga.,?regional hosted by No. 4 national seed Georgia in a best-of-three super regional, June 7-10.

                        Super regional winners advance to the College World Series, June 15-26 in Omaha, Neb.

                        The Sun Devils are 1-6-1 all-time vs. LSU. They have never played Southern Mississippi and are 1-0 vs. Stony Brook.

                        ASU is among five Pac-12 qualifiers. Others are No. 1 national seed UCLA, No. 11 Stanford, No. 16 Oregon State – all regional hosts – and California, a No. 2 regional seed at Fayetteville, Ark.?

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                        Arizona, despite going 13-1 in May to finish 32-24, did not receive an at-large berth. Grand Canyon (36-24) lost 5-4 Sunday to Sacramento State in the Western Athletic Conference championship game, missing out on an automatic qualifying berth.

                        ASU is making its 40th NCAA Tournament appearance – one of only seven schools to reach that mark – but first since 2016.

                        The Sun Devils rebounded from consecutive 23-32 seasons in 2017 and '18 to start 25-1 through March. They are 12-16 since April 1, losing out on a chance to host a regional for the first time since moving to Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 2015.?

                        Instead, ASU will be trying to win a road regional for the first time since 1998 and first time in three tries under Smith. The Sun Devils were 1-2 in a 2015 regional at Fullerton, Calif., and 2-2 in a 2016 regional at Fort Worth, Texas.

                        ASU's last super regional appearance was in 2011 and its last College World Series appearance in 2010.

                        "You kind of just take a step back and realize after three long years you finally made the tournament," Aldrete said. "That's been our goal since we stepped foot on campus, my whole class. I got a little bit emotional when everyone was celebrating, but they're happy tears. No more sad tears in this program. We're going in the right direction.

                        "It's tough to talk about the playoffs and not have our name in the conversation. Now we're back in, it just feels right. This is what ASU baseball is and what it's going to continue to be."

                        ASU goes into the postseason ranked No. 1 nationally in home runs (92), third in slugging percentage and 10th in scoring (8.2 runs per game). Hunter Bishop and Spencer Torkelson are in the top 10 in homers with 22 and 21, respectively, the first 20-homer duo in school history.?

                        "I'm glad they get to experience this," Smith said referring particularly to his juniors. "It's certainly something you talk about in the recruiting process, it's certainly a staple of what this program has been for a very long time.?

                        "They deserve it. We've worked hard to get to this point. Now we're here, job's not finished. But I think everybody is excited for the opportunity to compete for a national championship."

                        Baton Rouge regional

                        Where: Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge.

                        ASU radio: KDUS-AM?(1060).

                        Friday: ASU vs. Southern Mississippi, 10 a.m. (ESPN3); LSU vs. Stony Brook, 4 p.m. (ESPNU).

                        Saturday: Friday losers, 10 a.m.;?Friday winners, 4 p.m.

                        Sunday: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, noon; Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.

                        Monday, June 3:?Game 7 if necessary, 1 p.m.?

                        ASU baseball recent postseason

                        2005: College World Series?

                        2006: Regional

                        2007: College World Series?

                        2008: Super regional

                        2009: College World Series

                        2010: College World Series

                        2011: Super regional

                        2012: Ineligible

                        2013: Regional

                        2014: Regional

                        2015: Regional

                        2016: Regional

                        2017: Did not qualiy

                        2018: Did not qualify

                        2019: Regional (minimum)

                        MORE: ASU baseball loses Stanford series on ninth inning homer but optimistic about postseason

                        MORE: ASU baseball: 21 games over .500, but is that sufficient progress from 9 under?

                        Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8053.?Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.

                        Support local journalism: Subscribe to today.

                        This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU baseball returns to NCAA Tournament at Baton Rouge regional

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