By Bubba Brown
The Division II World Series bracket is set and the double-elimination tournament is ready to kick off Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Here’s a look at the eight teams that will be competing for the title.
Atlantic Region Champion—Kutztown (Pa.): After losing the first game of the regional, the Golden Bears won four straight, including head coach Chris Blum’s 300th career win, to return to the D-II World Series for the first time since 2007.
Central Region Champion—Minnesota State-Mankato: The Mavericks will make their fifth trip to the D-II World Series, but their first appearance since 1986. Minnesota State’s best finish was third in 1980.
East Region Champion—Franklin Pierce (N.H.): Facing elimination, the Ravens rallied for back-to-back wins against their regional’s top seed, Southern Connecticut State, to earn their fifth regional win in the past eight years. Pitching is the Ravens' strength, as they lead the nation with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, led by righthander Jose Macias (9-1, 0.96 with 110 strikeouts), the team's top prospect.
Midwest Region Champion—Southern Indiana: The Screaming Eagles won all five games in the Midwest Regional to advance to their first World Series appearance since 2007. However, staff ace Trevor Leach (11-1, 3.02) will serve a four-game suspension for being ejected after an umpire ruled he intentionally beaned an opponent in the regionals. Head coach Tracy Archuleta also has been suspended for a game.
South Region Champion—Tampa: The Spartans enter the World Series as a traditional power having won 14 regionals, including four in the past five seasons. Tampa, which ranks second in the country in slugging (.604) and fifth in scoring (10.4 runs per game), has won the World Series five times, with the most recent being in 2007.
Southeast Champion—Georgia College & State U.: The lowest seeded team to win a regional, the third-seeded Bobcats slugged their way to their first World Series since 1995 by beating top-seeded Francis Marion (S.C.). Georgia College averages 10 runs per game, eighth-best in the country.
South Central Region Champion—Central Missouri: The Mules have won the most regionals of any team in this year’s World Series with 15, and have won it all twice, in 1994 and 2003. They skill it up offensively, leading the nation in sacrifice bunts (89) and ranking 10th in scoring (9.7 runs per game).
West Region Champion—UC San Diego: The Tritons, with a gaudy 51-7 record, enter the World Series ranked No. 1 in the NCBWA D-II Poll after losing in the semifinals to the eventual runner-up, Emporia State, last season. The Tritons have made just 35 errors all season, sporting a Division II-leading .984 fielding percentage, and their .371 average ranks third in the country.
The postseason is just underway as the regionals began on Wednesday at eight different sites. The 55 teams are vying for one of the eight spots in the D-III World Series, which will take place May 28 through June 1 at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.
Both members of the 2009 title game qualified for the field. Last year’s champion, St. Thomas (Minn.), is the second seed in the Midwest Region, while last season’s runner-up Wooster (Ohio) is seeded second in the Mideast Region.
NJCAA Division I
Five schools have already qualified for the 10-team field of the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. Hutchinson (Kan.), Faulkner (Ala.) State, State College of Florida (formerly Manatee JC), San Jacinto (Texas) and Temple/McLennan (Texas) have already paved their way to the World Series by virtue of their regions not competing in further district championships, unlike the other five teams which will make up the other half of the field.
For the rest of the field, the district championships began on Thursday with the Western and South Central districts starting things off, the Northern and Eastern districts getting underway on Friday and the East Central district starting on Saturday.
Among the schools playing in the district championships is the College of Southern Nevada, which is competing in the Western District and features Bryce Harper, who is projected as the first overall pick in June’s Major League draft. Once the final 10-team field is set, the World Series will begin on May 29 and run through June 5 at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction.
The D-II World Series will be played from May 29-June 5 at David Allen Memorial Ballpark, in Enid, Okla. Four schools have already won their district and are set to play in the World Series. Paradise Valley (Ariz.), Vincennes (Ind.), Lenoir (N.C.) and Connectict-Avery Point have punched their tickets to Oklahoma and are waiting on the six other districts to finish up play. The final six districts begin play this weekend and will all wrap up by Sunday.
The Junior College Division III World Series starts Saturday at Mike Carter Field in Tyler, Texas. Gloucester County (N.J.) looks to be the favorite among the eight-team field, as it was the top-ranked team in Wednesday’s final D-III poll. It is the 15th consecutive World Series appearance for the Gloucester County, which has won five national titles.
Every team has been to at least one previous World Series except Nassau Community College, which is making its first appearance. Nassau was ranked fourth in the final poll.
California Junior Colleges
The California Community College Athletic Association has its own championship tournament, which starts on Friday at John Euless Ball Park in Fresno, Calif. None of the four teams competing has ever won the state championship, but the College of San Mateo enters play having earned a No. 2 seed in the Northern California division, the highest original playoff seed of any team. On the flip side, Rio Hondo College is an unlikely entrant in the tournament, as it was the ninth-seeded team in the Southern California bracket. Rio Hondo's most famous baseball alumnus is Evan Longoria. El Camino, the highest seed advancing from the South, and upstart Ohlone, under second-year head coach Jordan Twohig, are the other semifinal matchup. The championship game will be played on Sunday.
Northwest Junior Colleges
Similar to California, the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges holds its own championship tournament for junior colleges in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. The region playoffs begin on Friday, and the NWAACC championship tournament starts on May 27 at David Story Field in Longview, Wash.
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