The Junior College Division I World Series will kick off tomorrow with 10 teams from across the country competing for the national championship. This marks the 54th consecutive year the games will be played at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo., and the first year since the ballpark underwent an $8.3 million renovation.
“It is a great story for the community,” tournament director Jamie Hamilton said. “Everybody here loves baseball with a passion. It’s what we do.”
The renovations will increase Suplizio Field’s capacity to 7,234 and Hamilton expects over 130,000 people to attend the eight-day tournament. Team supporters and alumni will flock from around the country, but the bulk of those attending games are baseball-crazed locals.
“Fans have an opportunity to see the next superstar in the big leagues,” Hamilton said.
Grand Junction may not sound like a destination for future major leaguers, but the many unheralded players who have competed there over the years could form quite an all-star lineup: Curt Schilling, Kirby Puckett, Cliff Lee, Travis Hafner, Eric Gagne, Adam Laroche, John Lackey, Brandon Belt and Bryce Harper.
“In all the 25 years that I have been on the tournament committee, Bryce Harper was the first one we ever heard about before,” stated Hamilton.
[...] Continue Reading »
The NAIA World Series kicks off on Friday at Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho. Lewis-Clark State plays host for the 14th straight year and received an automatic bid along with nine teams who won their Opening Round brackets. Defending champion Concordia went 1-2 in the Marion (Ind.) Bracket and did not advance, nor did Lubbock Christian, the runners up, as they went 2-2 in the Oklahoma City Bracket. As usual, the seeding is based off the final Coaches’ Poll.
2012 Final Poll (5/6): No. 1 LSU-Shreveport, No. 2 Lee (Tenn.), No. 3 Oklahoma City, No. 6 Tennessee Wesleyan, No. 8 Embry-Riddle (Fla.), No. 10 Lewis-Clark State, T-No. 12 St. Thomas (Fla.), T-No. 12 Point Park (Pa.), No. 15 South Carolina-Beaufort, No. 23 Rogers State (Okla.), NR- College of Idaho (received 51 votes).
LSU-SHREVEPORT (No. 1 national seed)
Record: 51-4. Preseason Ranking: 6. Ranking at end of regular season: 1.
Head Coach: Rocke Musgrave (13th season, 490-252).
Tournament History: The Pilots are making their second straight and third all-time NAIA World Series appearance (5-4). They lost to Concordia, 8-4 last year in the semifinals. Shreveport has never won a World Series.
Season In A Nutshell: For the last six weeks of the regular season, LSU-Shreveport was the top-ranked team in the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll after going 22-4 in the Red River Athletic Conference and cruising to their sixth straight conference tournament championship. Winners of their last 16 straight, LSU-Shreveport swept through the Paducah bracket in the opening round two weeks ago, twice knocking off No. 11 Lindsey Wilson.
Overview: Despite only returning one position player from their lineup last year, the Pilots once again have NAIA’s most potent offense—averaging over nine runs per game by hitting .351/.448/.517 as a team. Their pitching staff ranks sixth with a 2.86 ERA—down from 4.49 in 2011—as they limited opposing hitters to a .216 batting average while striking out a batter per inning. The Pilots’ main shortcoming lies defensively. Their .955 fielding percentage is tied for 69th—which still ranks in the top third in the nation.
Interesting facts/Notable Alumni:
Here's a quick look at how Thursday's action impacted the postseason picture. We'll reference WarrenNolan.com RPI figures rather than the more accurate Boyd's World rankings because the Warren Nolan figures have been updated to reflect Thursday's action, while the Boyd's figures won't be updated until Friday morning. The Warren Nolan rankings are close enough to suit our purposes here.
NATIONAL SEED RACE
South Carolina avoided an 0-2 showing in the SEC tournament with a 5-3 win against Auburn, which was probably necessary to keep its national seed hopes afloat. As we wrote yesterday, the Gamecocks are likely competing for the last national seed with Rice and Stanford, with Texas A&M in the discussion. The Owls and Aggies were also in action Thursday and both lost, as Rice was knocked off by red-hot Memphis, 3-2, while A&M fell to Missouri, 5-3.
Memphis, which has won 14 of its last 17 games (including three road series wins, one of them at UCF), improved to 2-0 in pool play at the C-USA tournament. The Tigers clinched a berth in Sunday's C-USA championship game; even if they lose to Houston on Friday and Rice beats Southern Miss, the Owls and Tigers would finish 2-1 in pool play and Memphis would have the head-to-head tie-breaker. So Rice cannot couple its regular-season title with a C-USA tournament championship, which deals a significant blow to its national seed hopes. Rice still has at least a chance if South Carolina loses Friday and Stanford loses its series against Cal, but more realistically this is probably now a two-team race between the Gamecocks and Cardinal, who each have 11 wins against the top 25 in the RPI, compared with Rice's five. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Back in January, Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said he didn't feel like his Cavaliers were a Top 25-caliber club. But, he said, they could be at the end of the season.
"When you lose 70 percent of your innings, I don't see how you could justify (a preseason ranking," O'Connor said. "We lost our top four guys—they all threw over 70 innings. We don't have a returning catcher that's ever caught in this program.
"It's going to be fun to figure out. This team's going to have to grow."
The Cavs started off the season 11-8-1 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, but since getting swept by Florida State in their second conference series, they have gone 25-8. With Thursday's 3-2 win against Clemson in their ACC tournament opener, the Cavaliers have won 10 of their last 13 ACC games.
Not only are they a Top 25-caliber team, but they're in position to host a regional. This team has dramatically outperformed expectations; that's a testament to UVa.'s fine coaching staff, which masterfully guided the young Cavs through the rough patches and got them peaking at just the right time.
"I feel like this team over the last six weeks or so is playing its best baseball," O'Connor said Thursday. "Obviously we would have wanted to get out of the gate quick, but that didn't happen. We had a lot of learning that needed to be done. We needed to figure out the roles in our bullpen and get some of our young freshmen experience. Once those things started coming together, we thought we could have a good ballclub." [...] Continue Reading »
When: May 27-31, 2012
Where: Appleton, Wis., Fox Cities Stadium
Who: Christopher Newport, Va. (34-8), Cortland, N.Y., State (39-7-1), Kean, N.J. (37-10), Marietta, Ohio (43-7), St. Thomas, Minn. (38-8), Webster, Mo. (35-12), Wheaton, Mass. (38-9), and Whitworth, Wash. (30-14-1)
Quick Facts: Eight-team double-elimination tournament. Marietta returns to the tournament after winning the national championship in 2011. Whitworth and Webster are making their first appearances. This marks the 13th year that Appleton has hosted the Championship. [...] Continue Reading »
Rhode Island dropped its Atlantic 10 tournament opener Wednesday against St. Joseph's, but staved off elimination with a 6-5 win against Massachusetts later in the day.
The Rams, who finished third in the regular-season standings, need to run through the loser's bracket to win the A-10 tournament in order to advance to regionals, but their spring has already been a special one. The Rams have dedicated their season to Joe Ciancola, a URI righthander who died after a preseason conditioning workout in October.
To honor Ciancola's memory, the Rhode Island players decided to abstain from cutting their hair until the end of the season, in a nod to Ciancola's distinctive head of hair, which his teammates referred to as his "flow." We first wrote about the "Flow for Joe" initiative in December and promised to update their progress with photos in the spring.
URI sports information director Jodi Pontbriand took a final round of photos of the shaggy Rams this week and sent them along.
Joe would surely be proud—of his teammates' wild hair as well as the way they responded to tragedy and posted a spirited 33-24 season. And it's not over yet.
Here's a quick look at the postseason ramifications of Wednesday's action in college baseball. We'll break it down by the races for national seeds, hosts and at-large spots.
NATIONAL SEED RACE
As we wrote in Tuesday's Stock Report, we see four candidates battling for the final national seed, and this week's action might determine whether South Carolina, Rice, Stanford or even Texas A&M gets it. We'll throw Kentucky into the mix as a fifth candidate (the Wildcats need a deep run in Hoover to make up for their sluggish finish to the regular season, but they got off to a good start with Tuesday's 2-0 win against Ole Miss; they were off Wednesday). Stanford is off until Friday, when it opens a three-game series against California.
We pegged the Gamecocks as a slight favorite Tuesday, but their recent struggles in the SEC tournament continued with a 3-2 loss to Vanderbilt. If South Carolina loses to Auburn in Thursday's elimination game to finish 0-2 in Hoover, they seem likely to get passed over by one of the other contenders, assuming they have strong weeks. Rice got off to a good start in the Conference USA tournament, winning their pool-play opener against Houston, 7-4, despite getting just two-thirds of an inning from No. 4 starter Andrew Benak. Rice's top three starters remain fresh, however, and the Owls did not use J.T. Chargois out of the bullpen Wednesday.
Texas A&M also won, 10-4 against Kansas, but the Aggies have more work to do to make up for their 1-6 record against the top 25 in the RPI and second-place finish in the Big 12 (four games out of first place). The Aggies probably need a Big 12 tournament title to have a chance, and getting a win Wednesday with No. 4 starter Daniel Mengden on the mound was a great start. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—After North Carolina used six pitchers in a dominating 6-0 win against Wake Forest on Wednesday night, an entertaining UNC coach Mike Fox had some fun with the media about his bullpen usage.
"As we've done all year long, we go to our bullpen, and kind of mix and match, and drive y'all crazy, but we don't really care about that," Fox said with a playful smile.
He returned to the topic a little later.
"We've got guys down there we haven't used in a while, and we like to use our pitchers," he said, explaining UNC's two pitching changes in the ninth inning, which might have induced a few groans in the stands and press box but also helped the Tar Heels escape a bases-loaded jam unscathed. "We feel like our guys have worked hard and they want innings. I know it's late, I know what the score is, I get all that. I'm just going back to the hotel, so it doesn't really matter to me. I enjoy being in the dugout. I know you guys are on a deadline, so I thought about that a little bit at the end. (Another grin.)
"I like to give our guys an opportunity. We have a reputation for that—I like it. I like that guys know they can pitch. We didn't have the right guy in at the end, but we could have gone to a number of guys there. If they had gotten another hit, we'd have made another pitching change. It's just what we do. No apologies."
Nor should Fox make any apologies. UNC puts a winning team on the field year after year, partly because the coaches know how to make the best use of their roster and put players in position to succeed. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—It's easy to see why Eilliott Avent has so much affection for his 2012 team. Sure, winning breeds happiness for coaches, and North Carolina State is 39-15.
But this Wolfpack team has a certain character that makes Avent gush above and beyond the standard praise a coach has for his winning team. That makeup was on display Wednesday against Miami, when ace Eric Erickson and the Miami bullpen frustrated the 'Pack for eight innings, but N.C. State hung around and strung together five straight quality at-bats in the ninth to push across two runs and win 3-2.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," Avent said. "Wow, the lefty, Erickson, he's been good in this league for a long time, he was really, really good today—we knew we'd have trouble scoring off him. He was as good as I'd seen him. We just battled and battled and battled. And thank goodness for Ethan Ogburn. Ethan was just unbelievable today. He gave us a chance, that's what you have to do against a guy like Erickson."
The two starting pitchers mixed speeds and locations effectively to keep the game scoreless through five innings. Ogburn, who also pitched well in defeat last week at Florida State, spotted his 86-87 mph fastball and kept hitters off balance with his mid-70s curve and 80-82 cutter. The Hurricanes got to him for a pair of runs in the sixth, as Chantz Mack launched his first homer of the year, then chased him in the seventh. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Georgia Tech knew what was at stake in its ACC tournament opener Wednesday against Florida State. After going 12-18 in the league, the Yellow Jackets needed to make a statement in Greensboro to bolster their at-large chances. A game against the nation's top-ranked team would be Tech's best opportunity to do so.
Georgia Tech's veterans carried them to a 5-4 win, as Jake Davies mashed a pair of two-run homers behind Buck Farmer, who went six solid innings.
"I would certainly hope it enhances our cause, let's put it that way," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said.
Davies, a senior first baseman, made it sound like the Jackets came out with a chip on their shoulder. A fighting spirit will come in handy this week for a Tech team with its back against the wall.
"When they came to our place, we played them tight Friday," Davies said. "On Saturday we had the lead through six innings, so we felt like this was a game we could win, especially with them throwing a midweek guy—we didn't feel like they took us very seriously. We feel like we were a strong 8 seed—we can score runs."
FSU coach Mike Martin made it clear that the Seminoles weren't taking Georgia Tech lightly, adding that Scott Sitz is his No. 3 starter and was the best-rested option. But Davies had Sitz's number. [...] Continue Reading »
Michigan announced Tuesday that the school and coach Rich Maloney "have mutually agreed to not extend his contract," which ends in June.
Maloney led the Wolverines to a 341-244 record in 10 seasons, including eight straight winning seasons to start his Michigan tenure. The Wolverines made four straight trips to regionals from 2005-'08, winning the 2007 Nashville Regional against No. 1 national seed Vanderbilt and hosting a regional in 2008.
But the Wolverines went 17-31 in 2011 (7-16 in the Big Ten to finish in last place), and 22-34 (8-16, 10th place) this year.
"Rich had several significant accomplishments during his Michigan career, but we agreed a coaching change at this time was in the best interest of the program," director of athletics Dave Brandon said in a release. "We appreciate Rich's contributions and wish him well as he transitions to his next career endeavor." [...] Continue Reading »
Every Tuesday here on the College Blog, we examine how the postseason picture has shifted over the weekend. Rather than get bogged down in the jigsaw puzzle that is a full field of 64 projection, we're not going to worry about which regionals teams get sent to. We're just looking at who's in, who's out, who's on the bubble, with 14 weeks in the books.
During this discussion, we will reference the updated Ratings Percentage Index rankings at BoydsWorld.com, which are extremely close to the NCAA's official rankings (those aren't released until later Tuesday). We'll also reference the useful RPI Needs Report at Boyd's World, which provides a rough sketch of what teams need to do in order to reach important RPI benchmarks like finishing inside the top 45 (a loose target for an at-large bid). And we'll make use of records against the top 25, 50 or 100 in the RPI—figures that the Division I Baseball Committee looks at when constructing the field of 64. [...] Continue Reading »
Despite a shallow roster and not having played a home game all season, Cosumnes River CC won its first California Community College Athletic Association championship on Sunday, defeating third-ranked Rio Hondo 8-6 in 12 innings at Bakersfield College.
Battling back from an early 4-1 deficit, Cosumnes River (28-16) scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning to take a 6-5 lead. But, Rio Hondo (40-5) answered back in the bottom of the inning to send the game into extra innings.
After sophomore outfielder Colby Brenner laid down a bunt single and stole second base to lead off the 12th inning, sophomore shortstop Josh Silver (.335/.400/.445) singled to right center to plate Brenner for the go-ahead run. Sophomore third baseman Phillip Roa then added an insurance run by doubling in Silver. Silver and Roa led the Hawks offensively with three hits each.
Strike One: Flashes Of Greatness
It's natural to look forward in anticipation of the next big thing. That's why we grade recruiting classes when players show up as freshmen, in an effort to forecast the future. That's a worthwhile pursuit, but sometimes we forget to look back four years later to see how those recruiting classes panned out.
The freshmen who showed up on campus in the fall of 2008 are now seniors, so we can look back at the '08 recruiting classes with the wisdom of hindsight. Arizona State's top-ranked class that year (anchored by Zack MacPhee, Riccio Torrez, Jordan Swagerty, Josh Spence, Kole Calhoun, Johnny Ruettiger and Zach Wilson) won a lot of games, and Vanderbilt's No. 2 ranking feels justified (Sonny Gray, Grayson Garvin, Jason Esposito, etc). The same goes for Florida (led by Preston Tucker and bullpen stalwarts Nick Maronde, Anthony DeSclafani and Greg Larson) at No. 5, and you can make a strong case that UCLA (Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer) was underrated at No. 7.
The biggest whiff in that Top 25 was the omission of South Carolina's class, which included the nucleus of back-to-back national title teams (especially Michael Roth, Matt Price and Jackie Bradley Jr.). If you are ranking the impact of those recruiting classes in retrospect, the Gamecocks must be No. 1.
And Kent State's 2008 class stacks up among the nation's best too, in hindsight. That class featured a trio of players drafted inside the top 10 rounds as juniors last year (supplemental first-rounder Andrew Chafin, fourth-rounder Kyle McMillen and ninth-rounder Travis Shaw), and a group of stellar seniors who are gunning for their fourth straight Mid-American Conference title this week. The Golden Flashes have caught fire down the stretch, ending the regular season with a 13-game winning streak to finish 24-3 in conference play, winning the East Division by eight games.
"We're playing our best baseball right now," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "I think we're balanced at everything. We've made our championship runs primarily based on pitching over the years, and this year is no different. This is the deepest pitching staff we've had—we go about 11 deep and feel good about all those guys. Offensively, one through nine we've been very good." [...] Continue Reading »
Texas Tech has called a press conference for Monday morning, where it's expected to announce the firing of head coach Dan Spencer after four seasons. Spencer opened this season with an 86-86 mark in Lubbock, and this year's Red Raiders went 29-26, including a 7-17 mark in the Big 12 Conference.
[Editor's Note: Texas Tech has made it official.]
It was a down year for the league and Texas Tech still failed to qualify for the Big 12 tournament. In the bigger picture, the program hasn't earned a regional bid since 2004. Spencer was unable to stem the downward tide despite being an alumnus of the school who helped build Oregon State's back-to-back national champions as Pat Casey's top assistant coach. [...] Continue Reading »
A second team punched its ticket to regionals Saturday by winning its conference tournament. In the Northeast Conference, Sacred Heart beat top-seeded Monmouth 5-1 behind a complete game from Kody Kerski (9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). The Pioneers rebounded from a 1-9 start to the season and finished the conference tournament the same way they did a year ago—by winning back-to-back games against Monmouth. And for the second year in a row, Sacred Heart got complete-game victories from Troy Scribner, Nick Leiningen and Kerski in the NEC tournament. Sacred Heart heads to the NCAA tournament with a 25-30 record.
For most of the country, the regular season concluded Saturday. Let's take a look at the key action in the major conferences, then take a conference-by-conference look at which teams emerged as regular-season champions in the mid-majors.
The day's most compelling race unfolded in the SEC, where Louisiana State beat South Carolina 3-2 in 10 innings to win the series and clinch the regular-season title outright. The Tigers needed both Kentucky and Florida to lose to win the title outright, and that's what happened: Auburn beat Florida 5-4, while Mississippi State completed a sweep of Kentucky with an 11-3 win.
South Carolina (18-11) finished a half-game behind LSU (19-11) but still won the Eastern Division by a half-game over UK and UF (18-12). The Gamecocks, however, lost their head-to-head series against each of the other three powers, putting them on the bubble for a national seed. But Kentucky's national seed hopes look shot; the Wildcats finished the regular season by losing three of their final four series, dropping them to No. 17 in the updated WarrenNolan.com RPI rankings. [...] Continue Reading »
The 2012 coaching carousel started spinning less than an hour after after West Virginia ended its regular season Saturday with a 5-4 loss to South Florida. Mountaineers athletic director Oliver Luck announced that the university would not renew head coach Greg Van Zant's contract.
"Greg has spent a total of 26 years with the Mountaineer baseball program, including the last 18 as head coach, and we appreciate his many years of service to West Virginia University," Luck said in a statement. "During his time here, he has contributed to our baseball program as a student-athlete, assistant and head coach, and we wish him the best."
Van Zant posted a 528-451-1 record in his 18 seasons as head coach, including a 23-32 record this season. The Mountaineers won 35 or more games in 2006, '07 and '08, but they haven't been to a regional since 1996, Van Zant's second year as coach.
But as Van Zant told reporters after Saturday's game but before his dismissal was announced, West Virginia has not invested heavily in its program during his tenure.
"You're going to have success based on how well the school supports you," he said, per West Virginia Illustrated. "We've been in the Big East 17 years and we've only had eight and a half scholarships, and we've never been fully funded. You can go get a coach from wherever and they're just going to come from programs that have been fully funded that have success. You're only as good as your support. [...] Continue Reading »
Top 25 Showdowns
• (9) Louisiana State at (2) South Carolina: The two SEC heavyweights spilt their doubleheader, with LSU taking the opener 5-2, and South Carolina winning the nightcap 5-4. Coupled with Kentucky's second straight loss, the Gamecocks moved into first place in the SEC by a half-game over UK and LSU. Kevin Gausman (9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) threw his second straight complete game in the opener to hand Michael Roth (8 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) his first loss of the season. Christian Walker's three-run homer highlighted South Carolina's four-run sixth against Aaron Nola (6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) in the second game, and Matt Price (3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) protected the lead.
• (13) North Carolina State at (1) Florida State: James Ramsey's seventh-inning sacrifice fly broke a 2-2 tie, propelling the Seminoles to a 3-2 win, evening the series. Brandon Liebrandt (5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) was strong in a no-decision, and Robert Benincasa (1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R) picked up his 13th save.
• (5) Rice at (16) Central Florida: The Knights held on to win Friday's suspended game 8-6, but the Owls leveled the series with a 9-2 win in the second game, setting up a winner-takes-all rubber game Sunday for the C-USA regular-season title. After Rice cut into UCF's 8-0 lead with six runs in the fifth inning in the first game, Roman Madrid and Joe Rogers worked two scoreless innings apiece to preserve the lead. Michael Fuda homered and drove in three in the nightcap behind Austin Kubitza (6-2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K). [...] Continue Reading »
Top 25 Showdowns
• (13) North Carolina State at (1) Florida State: The Seminoles continued to scuffle, getting blasted 10-5 in the series opener—their fifth loss in their last seven games. Ryan Mathews (2-for-4, 3 R, 4 RBI) stayed red-hot for the Wolfpack, blasting two homers, including a three-run shot to highlight N.C. State's four-run fifth inning, helping the 'Pack erase an early 4-1 deficit. Mathews extended the ACC's longest active hitting streak to 19 games; he has five homers in his last five games, giving him 13 on the season. Carlos Rodon (6.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 9 BB, 6 K) struggled mightily with his control—nine walks is not a typo—but still gutted his way into the seventh inning to improve to 9-0.
• (9) Louisiana State at (2) South Carolina: Wet weather postponed the series opener; the two teams will play a doubleheader Friday.
• (5) Rice at (16) Central Florida: Rain suspended the opener with UCF leading 8-3 in the top of the fifth.
Top 25 Upsets
• (4) Kentucky at Mississippi State: Chris Stratton (6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) improved to 10-1 in MSU's 3-1 win over Taylor Rogers (5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER) and the Wildcats. Wes Rea's two-run single broke a scoreless tie in the fourth, giving Stratton and the MSU bullpen all the support they'd need. Ross Mitchell provided 2.1 innings of one-hit, shutout relief before handing off to freshman closer Jonathan Holder, who recorded the final out for his fifth save. The Wildcats fell into a virtual tie with South Carolina atop the SEC (though the Gamecocks are percentage points ahead).
• (25) Mississippi at Vanderbilt: T.J. Pecoraro (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K) threw Vanderbilt's first complete-game shutout since Richie Goodenow in 2010, leading the Commodores to a 3-0 win against Bobby Wahl (7.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) and the Rebels. Anthony Gomez drove in two to lead the Vandy offense, which won despite mustering just three hits. The Commodores improved to 27-25, and Pecoraro picked up his first win of the season. [...] Continue Reading »
The road to Cary, N.C., is set to begin this morning with 48 teams competing in eight regional tournaments with hopes of advancing to the 45th-annual NCAA Division II Championship. Regional play will last through May 21 with the opening round of the World Series beginning May 26 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
South Regional at Tampa, Fla.
Seeding: No. 1 Tampa, No. 2 Delta State, No. 3 Lynn, No. 4 West Florida, No. 5 Nova Southeastern, No. 6 Alabama-Huntsville, No. 7 North Alabama, No. 8 Stillman.?
Nationally top-ranked Tampa (38-8) will host the South Region after winning the Sunshine State Conference. Pitching is the Spartans strength, as the team ranked third among all Division II schools with a 2.45 ERA and first with 2.1 walks per nine innings. They are led by a pair of southpaws—senior Sean Bierman and junior Ben O’Shea. Bierman transferred from Vanderbilt in 2010 and redshirted last year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He is 8-2, 1.93 with 82 strikeouts and 10 walks in 79 innings pitched this season. The six-foot-six O’Shea was a 10th round pick out of Santa Fe College by the White Sox in the 2011 Draft and features an 88-92 mph fastball. This season, he is 7-1, 2.30 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 11 walks in a team-high 90 innings pitched for UT. Tampa will open regional play against Stillman (29-16), which led the country by hitting .364 as a team.??
The South Region has produced four of the last six national champions and is the only region with eight teams. It includes three conference champions: Tampa (Sunshine State), Delta (Gulf South) and Stillman (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic). Delta State (40-12) enters regional play with plenty of momentum after capturing a record 12th Gulf South Conference title in a 14-8 victory of Alabama-Huntsville a week ago. Its resume includes wins over nationally ranked North Alabama and West Florida, the latter of which won the 2011 D-II national championship. Lynn (36-13) finished second in the SSC behind Tampa despite winning two of the three regular season matchups. The 2009 national champion Fighting Knights are led by senior first baseman Anthony Boza (.406/.473/.731), who won SSC player of the year honors, as well as senior righthander Shawn Kale (5-0, 2.64) and junior righthander Ryan Gibbard (6-2, 3.24).??
Southeast Regional at Mount Olive, N.C.
Host: Mount Olive
Seeding: No. 1 Mount Olive, No. 2 Tusculum, No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic State, No. 4 Francis Marion, No. 5 Catawba, No. 6 Lander.
Mount Olive (44-8) will host the Southeast Regional for the fourth time in the last six years. After winning their third straight Conference Carolinas championship, the Trojans enter as winners of 37 of their last 41 games. The 2008 national champions hope to return to Cary–just an hour and a half away from campus—after tying for third place in last year’s World Series. The Trojans have the country’s most potent offense, averaging almost 11 runs per game. They are led by junior catcher Geno Escalante (.435/.502/.662), who led the all of D-II with 94 hits, and senior third baseman Jacob Rogers (.398/.534/.737). Escalante has hit safely in all but one game this season and is currently riding a 44-game hit streak—the fifth longest in D-II history. The record belongs to Nick Diyorio, who hit safely in 49-games in 2005 for Florida Southern. Escalante is also tied for second in D-II with 70 RBIs.
All six teams in the Southeast Regional finished the regular season ranked in the top 30 of the Collegiate Baseball Poll. Mount Olive isn’t the only team in the region capable of scoring a lot of runs. Tusculum (46-8) led the nation with a 0.852 winning percentage, which is on pace to break single-season school and league records. The Pioneers offense has been a driving force behind their success, as they rank second in the nation in runs scored. Senior outfielder Alexi Colon slugged 19 home runs, scored 65 runs and leads the nation with 64 walks while serving as Tusculum’s cleanup hitter. Senior righthander Craig Goodman is a finalist for the Tino Martinez award, which goes to the best player in D-II. Goodman was the Southern Athletic Conference pitcher of the year this season after going 10-0, 2.09 with 80 strikeouts and 22 walks in 86 innings.
Armstrong Atlantic State will square off against Francis Marion (37-16) in a rematch of the Peach Belt Conference tournament semifinals. Armstrong righthander Ethan Bader, whose big body (6-7, 220 pounds) intrigues scouts as a draft-eligible sophomore, pitched a complete game four-hitter while striking out 10 in a 5-1 victory over Francis Marion. FMU makes its fourth consecutive trip to regional play. Senior outfielder Buddy Sosnoskie (.388/.440/.537) is one of D-II’s top prospects. He began his career at Virginia Tech and slugged 13 home runs for the Hokies in 2010. He has solid all-around tools and has been a leader of the resurgent Patriots program.
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