CARY, N.C.—After finishing in last place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East a year ago, first-year Coach Jad Prachniak led West Chester to its first Division II World Series title on Saturday night, pummeling Delta State 9-0 on an exclamation point to culminate a 12-game winning-streak.
When Prachniak, who had previously been the pitching coach at William & Mary, was asked how he planned on following up such a remarkable feat in his first season at the helm, the 30-year-old facetiously said, “I’m going to retire. It was a good run and there’s not much left.”
Winners of 15 of its last 16 postseason games, the Golden Rams (46-10) came to the USA Baseball Complex with plenty of momentum. From the first pitch of their opening round game, they were the best team in the tournament. Led by sophomore righthander Joe Gunkle (10-1, 2.07), the Rams went a perfect 4-0 with wins over Chico (Calif.) State, Southern New Hampshire, Catawba (N.C.) and Delta (Miss.) State. [...] Continue Reading »
When Scott Loiseau was hired as the Division-II Southern New Hampshire head coach following the program’s disappointing seven-win campaign in 2008, he introduced a very simple philosophy to his players—attitude, effort and concentration.
“Those are the only three things you can control,” senior righthander Brad Monroe said. “If you can control those three things on and off the field, then you’re going to be successful. I’ve been here since coach took over the program, and he’s instilled that philosophy in us and pushed us to get better every day.”
The Penmen have steadily improved in the win column every year since then and won a school record 25 games in 2011. Thanks to dominating pitching by Monroe (8-3, 2.48), junior lefthander and D-II pitcher of the year Tim Flight (9-1, 1.31) and sophomore righthander Junior Mendez (6-2, 1.38), Southern New Hampshire was officially put on the map in New England after capturing 43 wins this season and making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
“Since we’re one of the few conferences in the country to play with wood bats, our goal when I was first hired was to build this team on strong pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Loiseau said. “We recruited a great crop of young men that bought into what we were saying and really sold it to incoming freshmen and transfer students.”
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.
Three College World Series start this weekend, beginning Friday at 11 a.m. in Appleton, Wis., where the Division III World Series is being held. The NAIA World Series will begin later in the day in Lewiston, Idaho, and Division II starts Saturday at 1 p.m. in Cary, N.C.
The Division II Series headliner is Mount Olive (N.C.) righthander Carter Capps, the top small college prospect in this year’s draft. Capps was picked as preseason Pitcher of the Year and followed that up by remaining undefeated in his career with a 14-0, 1.37 mark. He has struck out 124 batters in 111 innings. Capps broke the Division II record for consecutive victories, extending his career winning streak to 24 games. Mount Olive is chasing its second national championship in four years and will likely be the fan favorite in Cary. Mount Olive, the official host school, is located about an hour and a half from Cary.
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. [...] Continue Reading »
Maryland has hired Vanderbilt assistant coach Erik Bakich as its new head baseball coach, a source close to the situation confirmed Saturday. The hire will be announced officially on Monday. Bakich replaces Terry Rupp, who resigned in late May.
Bakich is a rising star in college coaching circles, known for his exceptional talent as a recruiter, his sharp baseball mind, his gregarious personality and his tireless work ethic. As Vandy’s recruiting coordinator, he brought in the nation’s top-ranked class in 2005 (highlighed by third baseman Pedro Alvarez) and the No. 2 class in 2008 (highlighed by righthander Sonny Gray). Each of Bakich’s last four recruiting classes have ranked among the top 25 in the nation, and his efforts are a significant reason the Commodores have become regular contenders in the Southeastern Conference.
Bakich is the latest member of the Jack Leggett/Keith LeClair coaching tree to get a head job (other former Leggett assistants currently serving as head coaches include Vandy’s Tim Corbin, Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan, Tennessee’s Todd Raleigh and Auburn’s John Pawlowski). He played for LeClair at East Carolina, graduating in 2000, and he started his coaching career as a volunteer under Leggett at Clemson in 2002. Bakich has his work cut out for him at Maryland, which needs significant facility upgrades and lacks winning tradition. But Vanderbilt was in a similar position when Bakich and Corbin arrived there after the 2002 season, and Bakich’s experience as a part of that turnaround should help him at Maryland.
Other finalists for the Maryland job included assistant coach (and former William & Mary head coach) Jim Farr, Indiana coach Tracy Smith and Radford coach Joe Raccuia, according to one source. But Bakich was an inspired choice if Maryland is serious about building a winning baseball program. This is not the first time he has received a head coaching offer at a Division I school, but he was waiting for the right job to come along before leaving a very good situation at Vanderbilt. For him to take the Maryland job, it must mean he is confident he can win there, and it likely signals that the administration is ready to ramp up its commitment to the program.
CARY, N.C.—Lynn (Fla.) has been crowned the D-II College World Series champion after defeating Emporia State (Kansas) 2-1 in a classic pitchers’ duel.
Lynn ace Dan Wright, a junior who transferred from Palm Beach (Fla.) CC before this season, was staked to a 2-1 lead in the third inning, and that was all the support he needed. Wright fired seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits. He fanned four batters and walked three.
The ace, coming off a fantastic season in which he posted a 2.35 ERA and struck out 115 batters in 115 innings, cruised after a shaky first inning, when Emporia plated its only run. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C. — Well we’ve finally got our two teams for the Division II world series — and it only took 12 hours at the ball park.
Lynn (Fla.) University took out upstart Belmont Abbey (N.C.) 7-5 to advance to the final, winner-take-all game against Emporia State (Kan.) on Saturday.
Daniel Flores had the go-ahead homer, a two-run shot just over the right center field wall.
The game was originally scheduled for 8:15 p.m., but rain delays pushed the start back to 11:15. Give some props out to Charlotte Observer stringer Rachel Ullrich, who stayed with me through the game (it finished up around 2:30 a.m.) Now that’s some serious dedication.
CARY, N.C — And we’ve got one half of the Division II championship game, as Emporia State (Kan.) downed top-ranked UC San Diego with a walk-off homer, 5-3.
The hero for the day? Kellen Lane, senior left fielder. The kid wasn’t exactly a slugger coming into the game, batting .290/.355/.336. He came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the go-ahead run on board, just looking for a base hit, a fastball outside to put in play.
He got a breaking ball inside, and somehow, adjusted his swing to make contact — and boy what contact. Lane’s first career home run couldn’t have come at a better time, and sends his Hornets into the championship game.
Now, Emporia State just has to wait on the winner of Belmont Abbey (N.C.) and Lynn (Fla.). Should Belmont Abbey win tonight, the two teams will play again Friday.
But for the moment, there’s lightning in the area, and as much as I love blogging, I’m not trying to die in this metal tent in Cary. Drama all around at the D-II World Series.
CARY, N.C. — Once again, the Belmont Abbey Crusaders (N.C.) have pulled off an upset to stay alive in the Division II world series. Belmont Abbey knocked off the top seed in bracket one, Mesa State (Colo.) Wednesday night, by a score of 9-2.
This time, it was second baseman Carlos Vasquez with the three-run homer in the first inning, taking the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. It was his first hit of the series — and just his third home run of the year. The best part? Vasquez’s homer came literally as a fellow writer turned to me and said "this guy doesn’t look like a good hitter."
Belmont Abbey gives the D-II series some of the best oddball bits of character: the coach is named Kermit Smith, and he insists on bringing his toddler son to every post-game press conference "I started doing it in the regional, and we haven’t lost since," he said. Left fielder Tyler McKenzie continues to wear the same lucky pants every game, despite the ever-growing tear in the left leg. He’s worn them since the conference championship game, and every time he takes the field they get a little more tattered.
Another interesting note; while Belmont Abbey is the lowest-seeded team remaining, they have the strongest crowd following. Since all the other teams are from out of state and the Crusaders hail from nearby Charlotte (just two and a half hours down the road from Cary) Belmont Abbey fans show up in relative force.
But for the moment, Belmont faces it’s toughest test when it faces a Lynn University (Fla.) team that looked dominating in two previous wins, Thursday at 7 p.m.
CARY, N.C. — University of California at San Diego’s Vance Albitz is listed as a gracious 5-foot-8, 160-pound shortstop from Torrance California. Upon further examination Albitz is probably in the 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-6 range and weighs around 145-150 pounds.
“I don’t feel like I’m one of the smaller players. The only time I see that is when I’m looking at video of the game or if I see a picture of me standing next to one of my teammates.”
But that didn’t stop Albitz from leading the Tritons past Dowling (N.Y.) in the Division II world series. Albitz went 3-6 with two RBIs in UCSD’s 13-1 win.
CARY, N.C.—West Chester (Pa.) and UC San Diego were two of the highest-ranked teams in Division II entering the World Series. However, they both dropped their first game in the Series and came into Tuesday’s game with one guaranteed to go home.
For UC San Diego it was especially bittersweet as it was appearing in their its Division II World Series in the school’s history. West Chester had appeared in the 2006 series and went 1-2 before going home, and the Tritons had to sweat it out to hold on for an 8-6 victory, staving off elimination.
CARY, N.C.—It happened in the second inning of Emporia State’s game against Mesa State in the Division II World Series: With starter Tyler Aplehans struggling, Emporia State called in the relief early after Mesa State put up two runs in the second inning.
In came the submariner. Emporia State brought in righty Ben Graham, who proceeded to torpedo Mesa State’s vaunted offense (the Mavericks are batting .383 as a team, the highest team average in the series) pitching 6 1/3 shutout innings in Emporia State’s 5-2 win. He also struck out five batters and walked just one. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C.—And five games into the Division II World Series, the walk-off finally shows up!
Belmont Abbey continued its bracket busting by knocking off Grand Valley State in the first elimination game of the series, 5-4. The Crusaders gave up four runs in the top of the ninth inning as Grand Valley tied the game, but they answered with three hits of their own in the bottom of the ninth, culminating with Spencer Sobol’s walk-off single through the left side of the infield.
Belmont Abbey is starting to get a reputation for clutch performances with wins like this. The Crusaders won the Aiken regional as the No. 6 seed, beating host South Carolina-Aiken at home—twice. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C. — After two games of defense-heavy baseball, we finally had some fireworks at the Division II World Series.
Lynn University put up seven runs and 13 hits in defeating West Chester 7-3 in the final first-round game. The game included two home runs, first a solo shot from West Chester in the first inning, then a two-run bomb from Lynn.
Lynn had at least one runner on base in every single inning, adding five walks with its 13 hits. That’s nothing new for the Fighting Knights, who have recorded double-digit walks eight times this year. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C. — Gabriel Duran brought home not only the first upset of the Division II World Series, but also the first complete game of the series.
Dowling’s sophomore starter tossed a three-hitter as he shut down top-ranked UC San Diego (39-14), allowing just one run in No. 21 Dowling’s 3-1 victory. Duran used mostly a fastball and slider, mixing in the occasional changeup to baffle UCSD hitters all game.
For the year, Duran is now 10-2, and he was the Eastern Conference pitcher of the year. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C.—I headed to the Team USA Baseball Training Complex on Saturday afternoon for the Division II College World Series game between the Emporia State Hornets (46-13) and the Grand Valley State Lakers (45-14-1).
I had spent a great deal of time at the ACC tournament this week. So, I was struck by the atmosphere most of all. The venue was much smaller, with fewer fans. The announcer quickly asked that all foul balls be "returned to the first base dugout." Emporia State’s jerseys simply read E-State. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C.—The Mesa State Mavericks might be the top seed in the Division II World Series, but they found themselves at a distinct disadvantage Saturday afternoon at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
The problem? Mesa State is from lofty Grand Junction, Colo., where the thin air lets balls sail out of parks with regularity and the heat is dry. To compete in the World Series, they had to travel 1,910 miles to the humidity of North Carolina and the expansive ballpark at Cary.
The adjustment showed as Mesa State quickly fell behind to Belmont (N.C) Abbey 2-0. Mesa State starter Brent Lamaster complained of moisture on his fingers and struggled in the opening inning.
But it didn’t take long for the Mavericks to adjust, and the Cinderella bid from Belmont Abbey fizzled out with two home runs from Craig Lanzarotta and Mike Provencher, as Mesa State pulled out the 7-2 win. [...] Continue Reading »
While the Division I brackets haven’t been set yet, the NCAA released the Division II and D-III tournament fields on Monday.
For Division II, the host sites are Grand Junction, Colo., for the Central Regional; Kutztown, Pa., for the Atlantic Regional; Chillicothe, Ohio, for the Midwest Regional; Rindge, N.H., for the East Regional; Magnolia, Ark., for the South Regional; Aiken, S.C., for the Southeast Regional; Warrensburg, Mo., for the South Central Regional; and Keizer, Ore., for the West Regional.
Top-ranked Mount Olive (N.C.) brought home its first ever Division II national championship this weekend after beating Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) 6-2 in the title game.
The Trojans went 3-0 at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., capping the tournament by taking care of the No. 4 Tigers on Saturday. Mount Olive wasted no time in the championship game. A two-out error by third baseman Rudy Jovanovski allowed the first inning to continue, and the Trojans took advantage, putting up five runs in the frame. Josh Harrison led the offensive attack for the newly crowned national champs, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. [...] Continue Reading »
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