Thursday, May 25, 2017

Newcomers Rule the Day on Regional Championship Monday

It was a *bonkers* regional championship weekend, and we have the championship game quick-hitters here for you. Seven of our eight champions came out of their tournaments without a loss, so we have a lot of hot teams heading to Grand Prairie, Texas, for the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals, which are on a one-year hiatus from Cary, N.C.

The only team to win its region with a loss during the weekend was Quincy in the Midwest, as they tallied a pair of Monday victories against hosts Northwood to pull the minor upset. Outside of that region, we had a lot of compelling tournaments, even if not many compelling championship days.

Only one #1 seed made it out of its region, and that is thanks to Delta State in the South. Heading to Grand Prairie will be one #1 seed, three #2 seeds, two #3 seeds, and two #4 seeds. Three teams (Quincy, Lindenwood, North Georgia) will be making their national finals debut, while Delta State will be making its 12th national finals appearance, which equals the combined national finals appearances for the seven other schools making the trip this season.

Here is how it all shook out on championship Monday:

Host: Mercyhurst
Site: Russell Diethrick Park in Jamestown, New York
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
2. West Chester (40-11), PSAC, .565, 23rd, PSAC East Champions

The Golden Rams finished out a perfect 4-0 regional tournament by taking down Winston-Salem State in the championship game, 12-7, led by Jared Melone's 5-for-5 performance with four RBI.

The top third of the WCU lineup went 10-for-14 with six runs and six RBI in the game, including a double and stolen base. Josh McClain pitched the last three innings in relief to earn the victory.

WCU raced out to a 7-2 lead after four innings of play, but four runs by WSSU in the sixth and a run in the seventh tied the game up.

WCU answered in a big way, however, with a five-run eighth inning which included RBI singles by Drew Jarmuz, Corey Webb and Shane Dressler, as well as a two-RBI single by Melone.

It is the first regional title for West Chester since 2012. WCU captured the national championship in Cary, N.C. that season.

Host: Emporia State
Site: Glennen Field in Emporia, Kansas
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
4. Lindenwood (39-18), MIAA, .541, 59th, MIAA Tournament Champions, MIAA 3rd Place

An upset to say the least (sorry, Lindenwood), the Lions, playing in their first NCAA Division II postseason, apparently have no idea how hard it is to win a regional title.

Lindenwood went 4-0 in the tournament, including wins over 1-seed Emporia State and 3-seed St. Cloud State en route to the crown.

The Lions battled another surprise participant, Central Oklahoma, for the regional crown, coming away with an 8-4 victory.

Lindenwood dominated most of the game, going up 8-0 after six innings of play, and then staved off a UCO comeback, as the Bronchos scored four times in the eighth and ninth innings to cut the lead in half.

Connor Behrens and Drew Quinones each drove in two, while Blake Beckmann threw eight innings with nine strikeouts to nail down the win.

Host: Southern New Hampshire
Site: Penmen Field in Manchester, New Hampshire
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
3. St. Thomas Aquinas (42-15), ECC, .532, 79th, ECC Regular Season Champions

Yet another perfect tournament run, this time from STA. The Spartans went 4-0 as well, including a win over 2-seed New Haven and a pair of wins over 1-seed Southern New Hampshire, including the title game victory.

STA dominated the game right from the start. The Spartans scored six in the second inning and their lead eventually reached 13-0 in the eighth inning before the Penmen's modest comeback netted them two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Anthony Shkrelja and Mark Shkrelja each had three RBI for the Spartans, with both hitting homers in the contest.

Anthony Morris dominated on the mound, allowing six hits and striking out seven in a complete game effort.

STA is advancing to the national finals for the first time since 2014.

Host: Northwood
Site: Gerace Stadium in Midland, Michigan
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
3. Quincy (37-21), GLVC, .552, 37th, GLVC Tournament Champions, GLVC West 2nd Place

It was a heart breaker on home field for Northwood. The Timberwolves entered championship Monday perfect in the tournament, but Quincy came through and grabbed two narrow victories on the tournament's final day to win the first regional championship in school history. The Hawks are the only regional champion this year to lose a game in their respective regional tournament.

In game one of championship day, the two teams battled to a 3-3 stalwart through seven innings of play. In the bottom of the eighth, the Hawks struck for the go-ahead run, as T.J. Tamaccio singled and then moved to second on an error that also allowed the runner on first to score.

Hunter Haynes got the win in relief, with 2.2 innings if shutout ball, as Quincy upended the regional pitcher of the year, Tyler Jandron.

In the winner-take-all game two, the two teams battled to a scoreless game through six innings of play. In the top of the seventh, however, Jack Klages smacked a solo homer for the first run of the game, and J.C. DeMuri lifted a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth to put QU ahead 2-0.

Northwood was unable to capitalize, despite loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth, as their dream season came to an end.

Riley Martin picked up the victory with six innings of shutout baseball, while all five of QU's hits came from the 4th-7th spots in the lineup, led by Nolan Snyder's 2-for-3 game with a walk.

Host: Delta State
Site: Harvey Stadium - Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Mississippi
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
1. Delta State (44-11), GSC, .576, 10th, GSC Regular Season Champions, GSC Tournament Champions

In what may have been the most complete performance of any of the regional tournaments, the only 1-seed to advance out of the region, Delta State, won the top region in the country without a loss. The Statesmen only needed two wins to reach the final day of competition, and they picked them up with a 9-7 victory over Florida Southern and a 4-1 win over defending national champion Nova Southeastern. They faced a scrappy West Alabama squad in the title game, a team which got there with wins over Tampa and Nova Southeastern *on the same day*.

It was quite an affair in the championship game. Delta State staked themselves to a 4-0 lead in the top of the second, but the Tigers slowly chipped away, making it a 4-3 game going in to the bottom of the ninth. UWA got a one-out single and then a single with an error that allowed the tying run to the score. With the game-winning run on third base, however, DSU got the final out to send the game to extras.

It didn't take long for the Statesmen to capitalize, as a lead-off single and a one-out double was enough to score the go-ahead run, and DSU coaxed a double play and then got the final out with a TOOTBLAN after a base hit to end the game in the bottom of the frame.

Justin Nussbaum had two RBI for the Statesmen, while Josh Russell went 3-for-5 with a run and RBI. Also, national player of the year candidate Zack Shannon reached base for the 49th (!) consecutive game.

The Statesmen are returning to the national finals for the 12th time in school history, and first time since 2012, when they rallied for two victories on the final day of the regional tournament and then finished as the national runners-up.

Host: Mount Olive
Site: Scarborough Field in Mount Olive, North Carolina
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
2. North Georgia (46-10), PBC, .521, 99th, PBC Regular Season Champions

Another perfect regional tournament record belonged to the Nighthawks of North Georgia. UNG beat Lincoln Memorial (4-1), USC Aiken (6-2), and Mount Olive (13-6) to somewhat easily find themselves playing on championship day, where they took on Catawba.

It was death by a thousand paper cuts for Catawba. UNG scored single tallies in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, with the final tally in the 8th being the game-winner.

UNG led 3-0 after six innings of play, but Catawba cut that lead with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly to cut it to 3-2. After UNG picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by Bill Leroy to go up 4-2, the Indians came back yet again. An RBI single by Bryce Fowler and an RBI double by Nick Coble tied the game up at four heading to the bottom of the inning.

There, it was Andres Perez hitting a two-out go-ahead solo shot to cap a 2-for-2 day with one run, two RBI and a walk. From there, it was Jack Fleming getting the last three outs with a double play and a fly out to send the Statesmen to Grand Prairie. Dylan Peppers pitched six shutout innings with seven strikeouts to start for the Nighthawks.

It will be the first appearance in the national finals in school history for North Georgia.

Host: Angelo State
Site: Foster Field at 1st Community Credit Union Field in San Angelo, Texas
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
2. Colorado Mesa (48-10), RMAC, .542, 55th, RMAC Regular Season Champions, RMAC Tournament Champions

It was a fairly dominant performance by the Mavericks in the South Central Region. CMU went 4-0, outscoring its opponents 26-5, including an 8-1 win over Arkansas-Fort Smith in the regional title game.

Kyle Leahy moved to 13-0 on the season with six shutout innings and four strikeouts to earn the victory for the Mavs.

Tanner Rempel was 2-for-4 with a run scored, three RBI and a walk, while Zach McLeod was 1-for-3 with a runs cored and two RBI, including a home run.

CMU raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first four innings of play and never looked back en route to its third regional championship in school history and first since 2014, where they were the national runner-up.

Host: Azusa Pacific
Site: Cougar Baseball Complex in Azusa, California
Regional Tournament Page

(Reg. Rank, Team (D2 Record), Conference, SOS, SOS Rank, Notes)
4. UC San Diego (40-17), CCAA, .502, 140th, CCAA South 2nd Place

Another undefeated run by a regional tournament champion, and another appearance in the national finals for UC San Diego. The Tritons beat Dixie State 5-2, Azusa Pacific 4-0 and 11-3, and then took down Dixie State in the regional championship game, 8-6, to advance to its first national finals since going there back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Those are the only two prior times UCSD has advanced to the finals.

The Tritons gave themselves a 6-0 lead after five innings of play, and then tried to hang on for dear life. UCSD got three runs in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly and two RBI singles, then scored another three in the fifth on an RBI single, sacrifice fly, and an RBI single.

The Dixie State comeback began in the top of the sixth, as the Trailblazers scored twice in that frame, once in the seventh, and once in the eighth to make it a 6-4 game.

The eventual game-winning runs would come from UCSD in the bottom of the eighth. It was a two-run Brandon Shirley bomb the proved to be the difference, capping off his three-RBI game. That was enough for the Tritons, as Dixie State would score two in the top of the ninth on a two-RBI single, but stranded the tying runs on base to end the game.

Jack Rupe pitched 5.1 innings, allowing only two hits with six strikeouts and two unearned runs. Outside of Shirley's three-RBI game, the Tritons got good performances from Keenen Brigman (2-for-3, two RBI) and Tyler Howsley (2-for-2, two doubles, two runs, one RBI).

No comments:

Post a Comment