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TUSCALOOSA — The Alabama baseball team didn't make the NCAA tournament by much, but the Tide made it, and that alone is a sizable step forward for the program.

As one of the last four teams in, the Crimson Tide will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. The selection was announced Monday.

Alabama will be the No. 3 seed in the Ruston (La.) Regional with No. 16 Louisiana Tech. First, the Crimson Tide will face North Carolina State on Friday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast online on ESPN3.

The coach who last led Alabama to an NCAA tournament appearance will be in the regional. Former Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard serves as Louisiana Tech's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. He spent seven seasons with the Crimson Tide and compiled a 234-193 record.

The other three teams that made it along with Alabama as the last four in are Michigan, North Carolina and UC Santa Barbara. Baylor, Pittsburgh, Georgia and Ball State made up the list of first four out.

ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson said on the televised selection show that Alabama was a surprise and that he didn't expect the Crimson Tide to make it. Publications such as D1 Baseball and Baseball America also placed the Crimson Tide on the bubble coming into Sunday.

D1 Baseball had the Crimson Tide one of the first out, while Baseball America had Alabama as one of the last in.

NCAA baseball committee chair Jeff Altier said the reasoning for including Alabama was simple.

"Their strength of schedule was very strong, and I think that was pretty much it," Altier said on the ESPN2 broadcast. "Just Alabama's strength of schedule in a very strong conference made them a selection for us."

A couple of upsets in the SEC tournament likely helped Alabama's bid. The Crimson Tide entered the conference tournament this past week with the No. 10 seed and defeated No. 7 South Carolina and No. 2 Tennessee before falling to Florida and Tennessee. The SEC Tournament appearance marked Alabama's first since 2016.

With the 2021 NCAA tournament berth, Alabama coach Brad Bohannon reaches his first SEC and NCAA tournament since taking over before the 2018 season. He has tallied a 104-80 record so far over his four seasons, one of which COVID-19 cut short.

The schedule for opening games in the Ruston Regional:

—Alabama (31-24) vs. N.C. State (30-17), 2 p.m. Friday (streamed on ESPN3)

—No. 16 Louisiana Tech (40-18) vs. Rider (23-16), 6 p.m. Friday (streamed on ESPN3).

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