It was pointed out to University of San Diego baseball coach Rich Hill that his Toreros had never won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament despite earning a post-season bid for the third straight year and fifth in the last seven.

What made him think 2008 would be different?

“Two words — Brian Matusz,” Hill said. “He’s the best pitcher in the country.”

Matusz, an All-American junior left-hander, showed what Hill meant and why he might be the first pick of the draft in two weeks as the Toreros defeated Cal 5-0 Friday afternoon at Long Beach State’s Blair Field.

Matusz threw a three-hitter and retired 12 straight batters from the fifth inning until giving up his third hit in the ninth with one out. Matusz improved to 12-2 for the season.

It’s the first time USD (42-15) has won an opening round regional game in the NCAA Tournament. The regional is a double-elimination, four-team tournament, so those first-round losses in the past didn’t eliminate the Toreros. But it’s a long road back if you don’t win that first game, because you’re facing elimination every time out.

USD, Cal, Fresno State and Long Beach State will keep playing over the weekend to determine which team advances to the Super Regional, which will likely be played at Arizona State next weekend.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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