DIII Baseball Championship preview
Looking back, Buena Vista baseball coach Steve Eddie believes the loss to Illinois Wesleyan in the regional final a year ago was a blessing in disguise.
Sure, it was tough to digest a 10-3 loss to the eventual NCAA Division III national champion, and sure it hurt to fall short of playing in the national Finals for the first time in school history. But the disappointing experience has been beneficial to the Beavers during this postseason. They have been motivated by it and it has helped set the stage for its run to Appleton, Wis., this week for the national tournament.
Buena Vista (32-16) will open the tourney against No. 12 Wisconsin-Whitewater (36-11) at 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday night at Fox Cities Stadium.
“This whole process began last year when we lost to Illinois Wesleyan,” Eddie said. “We knew the next step for us this year would be to win the regional. I felt like our experience from last year helped us play relaxed and we knew how to handle playing in such a tough setting.”
Buena Vista beat 20th-ranked Carthage twice in the final round of the Central Regional to earn a berth in the national Finals, and while the Beavers would love to win the championship, they know it’s important to savor the moment.
“We want to go in and be the loosest team in the tournament,” Eddie said. “We want to be the team that has the most fun. There is no pressure on us. We will go there and have a great time and see what happens.”
Senior Brad Blum has played a pivotal role in the success of the Beavers. He is hitting .378 in the lead-off role and has driven in 31 runs. He also has an on-base percentage of .507.
Sophomore Ryan Scheetz is hitting ,377 and has knocked in 32 runs. Senior Michael Hoffman has racked up 18 doubles and has tallied 47 RBI this season.
The Beavers are hitting .308 as a team and are averaging more than six runs per game. They have been solid defensively as well, particularly as of late, committing one error or less in eight of their last 11 games.
“We have been hitting the ball pretty well and that has to continue this week,” Eddie said. “We have had a lot of different players contribute and that has been a key to our success.”
Senior Luke Probasco is the ace of the Buena Vista staff. He is 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA. He has recorded 63 strikeouts and has issued only 18 walks.
The Beavers have a team ERA of 3.88 and have committed only 83 errors.
“Our defense has helped us get to where we are now,” Eddie said. “We know we have to continue to play great defense and have our starters go deep into outings for us to have a chance.”
Win or lose, this season has been a huge success for the Beavers. They finished second in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and have tied a school record for wins in a season.
It is a stark contrast to where this program once was. After the Beavers won a conference title in 1981, they suffered through 20 consecutive losing seasons. Eddie has been the head coach since 2000 and has been instrumental in the rise of the program.
“We used to consistently be a last-place team and now we are at the point where we have high expectations,” Eddie said. “Our seniors have put this program on the map and deserve so much credit for what we have accomplished. Going to (the national tournament) is a reward for all of the hard work the team has put in this season.”
Way back at the beginning of the season, Chapman’s baseball team struggled. The Panthers lost four of their first five games and seemed destined for a tough season.
But the ninth-ranked team in the nation is on a roll now. The Panthers have won five consecutive games, including a riveting 8-7 come-from-behind win against Linfield in the West Regional last week.
Head coach Tom Tereschuk isn’t surprised his team rebounded from the slow start and that it is headed to the NCAA Division III Finals for the sixth time in seven seasons.
“We definitely got better as the season progressed, especially late in the year when you need to be at your best,” Tereschuk said. “I thought our momentum carried over to the regional and it’s exciting to be back.”
Pitching has played a vital role in the success of the Panthers (33-11), who open tourney play Friday against third-ranked Kean (42-9) at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.
Sophomore Brian Rauh has been the leader of the staff. He has a 1.71 ERA and is 11-0 with 132 strikeouts. He has issued only 29 walks and has allowed 36 runs.
Jordan Sigman isn’t bad either. The senior is 8-2 and boasts a 2.95 ERA. He has recorded 55 strikeouts.
The Panthers have a 2.75 team ERA and have racked up 359 strikeouts.
“Our pitching has been great all season,” Tereschuk said. “We know we are going to have to pitch well in the tournament to have a chance because every team has great hitters.”
Junior Tyler Hadzinsky has been one of the team’s offensive sparks. He is hitting .345 and has driven in 25 runs. Sophomore James Parr has racked up 13 doubles and six triples and is hitting .288 on the season.
Tereschuk expects his team to play loose in the tournament.
“We are going in with no worries,” Tereschuk said. “We will give our best effort and play with confidence to give ourselves a chance to compete for the title.”
There was Kean’s baseball team, in the parking lot of FirstEnergy Park in New Jersey, their dreams of contending for an NCAA Division III championship on the verge of being shattered.
The third-ranked Cougars had just fallen to Catholic 3-2 in the opening round of the double-elimination Mid-Atlantic Regional, and after the game last week, head coach Neil Ioviero found a way to keep the heads of his players held high.
“We talked in the parking lot about how much work we had put into this season, and that we didn’t want to end so soon,” Ioviero said. “We knew it was going to be tough to get into the championship game because we already had one loss. But I think the loss took a little pressure off of us. We could go under the radar.”
Ultimately, Kean wasn’t going to be denied a trip to the DIII national Finals at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. The Cougars (42-9) fought through the consolation bracket, winning six consecutive games along the way, and defeated Alvernia twice, 9-4 and 7-0, to secure the regional title.
Kean is back in the national tourney for the first time since 2009 and will be looking for its second championship in school history. The Cougars won it all in 2007.
“The regional (run) says a lot about our character,” Ioviero said. “We kept playing hard and our effort paid off. From day one, we talked about our expectations, and the national title is always an expectation for us. I know you can’t win one every year but it’s great we are going to at least have a chance to win it.”
Ken Gregory is the leader of the offense. The senior is batting .410 and has racked up 22 doubles and 11 home runs. He has also knocked in 54 runs and has scored 45 times.
Junior Lee Cavico hasn’t been bad either for the Cougars. He is batting .342 and has scored the most runs on the team (47). Cavico ranks second in doubles (14) and homers (eight) and has driven in 46 runs for a team that is batting .305 and has put 355 runs on the board.
Cavico tallied two hits in the final game against Alvernia while Gregory racked up two hits and brought four runs across the plate.
“We have some veteran guys who have been through the battles,” Ioviero said. “We have had different players step up and we are playing well right now offensively.”
In the end, though, it’s all about taking care of business on the mound and in the field.
The Kean rotation is anchored by Mike Russo, who is 10-1 with a 1.43 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
Junior Chris Cirlincione is 7-1 and has come through with 35 strikeouts. His ERA stands at 1.09. Sophomore Kevin Herget has also been phenomenal. winning seven games. He has not suffered a loss in 15 appearances and has struck out 73 while fashioning a 2.08 ERA.
The Cougars have a fielding percentage of .961 and have committed only 78 errors this season.
“No one gets to this point without great pitching and great defense,” Ioviero said. “We have to be able to match what the other pitcher is doing and keep the scores low. If we do that, we have a shot.”
Kean will get things started at the national Finals on Friday, squaring off against ninth-ranked Chapman (33-11) at 11 a.m. ET. at Fox Cites Stadium. If they win, the Cougars will likely have to battle No. 1 Marietta in the second round.
“We have a very difficult road,” Ioviero said. “But we know that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. We will be ready to go.”
The odds of Keystone making the national Finals weren’t the best. Cortland State, one of the top 10 teams in the nation, was the favorite to play for a national title this week in Wisconsin.
“Most people thought Cortland was going to be here,” Keystone head coach Jamie Shevchik said. “They were being sized up for a trophy before the regional. To be here is great. We played well in the regional and anything we accomplish the rest of the year is gravy.”
The No. 25 Giants (36-10) haven’t lost since an April 26th setback to Cortland State. They have won 16 consecutive games and will battle Western New England in its first game of the tourney Friday.
The funny thing about this trip to nationals, the first in school history for the Giants, is that last season’s team had more talent.
“We had four guys drafted off of our team, which shows you how much talent we had,” Shevchik said. “This team is not as talented, but I feel like we are a better team. We have the right mix of veteran and young players.”
The Giants are led by junior Esteban Meletiche, an All-American who is batting .423 with 13 doubles and 10 home runs. He has knocked in 43 runs this season. Senior Brian Henry comes in batting .403. He has smacked 16 doubles and has driven in 48 runs for a team that holds a 371-160 edge in runs scored over its opponents.
Senior Jeff Frost has been one of the better pitchers for the Giants. He is 8-4 with a 2.41 ERA. He has recorded 80 strikeouts. Rob Rogers is 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He has 53 strikeouts.
“We will go into the tournament with our eyes wide open,” Shevchik said. “This is a brand new experience and even though we are on a bigger stage, we are going to continue to play the way we have all season.”
All eyes will be on Marietta's baseball team this week. The Pioneers are the top-ranked team in the nation and head into the NCAA Division III national Finals as the team to beat at Fox Cites Stadium in Appleton, Wis.
It is the 21st appearance for Marietta (42-3), which begins its quest for its first championship since 2006 when it battles Salisbury (33-12) at 2:15 p.m. EST on Friday afternoon.
Marietta clinched its national berth with a 2-1 win over Ohio Athletic Conference rival Heidelberg in the Mid-East Regional final at Don Schaly Stadium in Marietta last week.
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling,” Marietta head coach Brian Brewer said. “It was a little sweeter winning the regional against Heidelberg because they have ended our season in the past. Getting back to Wisconsin is a big deal for the school and for the community. Our guys came here for a chance to win a championship. They are looking forward to playing for one.”
The Pioneers have won their last 18 games, and while the stakes are a little higher this week, Brewer said his team won’t change a thing as it prepares to contend for a national title.
“We’ll take the same approach we have all season,” Brewer said. “We are going to go out and try to do everything right. Our guys have had success playing that way and that is a credit to the team.”
Brian Gasser has certainly done his part to help the team earn a spot in the national tournament. He was recently named the national pitcher of the year by d3baseball.com and comes into the tourney with a 13-0 record. He has a 1.09 ERA and has struck out 81 batters.
Senior Mark Williams is 7-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 84 strikeouts. The three pitchers have combined to issue just 64 walks.
The team ERA for the Pioneers is 1.71 and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they have committed only 52 errors.
“Our pitching has been exceptional, and the defense has played great, too,” Brewer said. “We have been able to make plays in the field and our pitchers have thrown hard and have minimized their mistakes.”
Offensively, senior John Snyder has played a key role in the success. He is hitting .460 and has knocked in 58 runs. Junior Tim Saunders is batting .389 with 49 RBI. Aaron Hopper has driven in 50 runs and owns a .349 average. Hopper, only a sophomore, has hit five home runs and the Pioneers are batting .344 as a team.
“We have gotten better and we feel like we feel like we have been able to put pressure on teams because we have a lot of different guys capable of stepping up,” Brewer said. “We have been hitting the ball well lately and hopefully that will continue.”
Although Marietta is the favorite to win the championship, Brewer said his team isn’t going to allow itself to get overwhelmed by the pressure. His team has played with a target on its back all season and he is confident the players are up for the challenge.
“We have to play smart and play together,” Brewer said. “If we play to our strengths, we will be fine. We can’t get caught up in the hype. We’ll put together a scouting report and our team will be prepared to play, but we know that if we take care of ourselves, we have a great chance to win a title.”
Doug Fleetwood isn’t surprised that his Salisbury baseball team is headed to the NCAA Division III national Finals this week at Fox Cities Stadium.
You see, Fleetwood expects his team to contend for a title every season. The Sea Gulls (33-12) are making their first trip to nationals since 2004 and open against top-ranked Marietta (42-3) at 2:15 p.m. ET on Friday.
“Our expectations are always high, and playing for the national championship is always a goal for us,” Fleetwood said. “We found a way to get through a tough regional and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do this time.”
Salisbury had to defeat Shenandoah twice in the regional championship round at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn., to punch a ticket to Appleton, Wis., and are in the national tournament for the third time in school history.
“We are excited about the opportunity,” Fleetwood said. “We have a good team and we know the field is very strong. We do have a fairly young team but we have had different guys step up and we know we have a shot if we play our style of baseball.”
Freshman Bill Root has the top batting average on the team, hitting .389, while senior Brian Green is hitting .367 and has driven in 29 runs. Junior Tyler Bennett is hitting .342 and has knocked in 35 runs. Bennett has hit 15 doubles this season while Green has 12 doubles.
The Sea Gulls are batting .307 as a team.
“We have been inconsistent at times on offense,” Fleetwood said. “We hit the ball pretty well in the regional and if we can continue to do that, we should be fine.”
Senior Chris Greiner has helped anchor the pitching staff. He is 10-3 with a 2.61 ERA and has struck out 99 batters. Dustin Herbert is 8-2 and owns a 2.08 ERA. The senior has 59 strikeouts on the season.
The Sea Gulls have played well behind their pitchers as well, committing only 62 errors on the year.
“Our pitching has been solid and we are playing great defense. Those are the two areas where we have improved the most,“ Fleetwood said. “If we do those two things well, we are going to put ourselves in a position to succeed.”
The Sea Gulls don’t intend to change much up as they prepare for the national tourney. They know it’s important to stick with what got them here in the first place.
“Our approach doesn’t change,” Fleetwood said. “We just have to give a good effort and play the way we have all season. It doesn’t do any good to change things now.”
As for the challenge of taking on Marietta in the opening round, the challenge is one his team welcomes with open arms.
“They have such a great program and we know we are going to have to be at our best to win,” Fleetwood said. “But this is why you play, to be in big games like this. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Western New England
The Golden Bears are in the midst of one of their greatest seasons in school history. Western New England (42-9) has set a mark for wins in a season and is making its eighth appearance in the national Finals.
Senior Matt Rogers has been phenomenal on the mound this season, and he is one of the reasons the Golden Bears are in contention for a national title. Western New England opens its title quest today against Keystone.
Rogers is 11-1 and has a 3.31 ERA. Evan Michaud is 8-0 and has a 2.53 ERA while junior Mike Lawlor is one of the top closers in the country. He is 3-1 and has 10 saves. He has struck out 54.
Offensively, Western New England has eight batters hitting .300 or better on the season. Sophomore Mike Rubino is hitting .417 is on the year and has 22 multi-hit games this year. He has knocked in 41 runs and has hit 10 doubles.
Kyle McKelvey is hitting .370 and is hitting .351 with 27 stolen bases. He has driven in 33 runs.
The Golden Bears are hitting .327 as a team while opponents are hitting .263 against them. They come into the tournament with a nine-game streak.
Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach John Vodenlich was asked if taking a team to the NCAA Division III national tournament ever gets old. He quickly pointed out that it doesn’t.
“It’s really exciting and this team is unique because of the special stories connected with this team,” Vodenlich said. “A year ago, we won our league title but fell short of going to the national tournament. This year don’t win our league but we win the regional. I think losing in our conference tournament this year gave us extra motivation.”
When Whitewater fell 2-1 to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, it actually worked out to the War Hawks’ advantage.
“It gave us extra time to focus on doing the little things right,” Vodenlich said. “We also had a chance to rest up and we felt like we went into our regional ready to go.”
Turns out, Vodenlich was right. Whitewater, which did not lose a game in the regional, knocked off St. Scholastica 6-3 in the championship game last weekend to punch its ticket to the national tourney.
The Warhawks (36-11) are ranked 12th in the nation and will be seeking their first national title since 2005. And as Vodenlich noted, a championship is what his players have been dreaming about since day one.
“They came here for an opportunity to win a championship,” Vodenlich said. “We’ve had a good season and we are hoping we can take advantage of this opportunity. We are going to go into the tournament confident and play with enthusiasm.”
Whitewater will be taking on Buena Vista (32-16) at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. The War Hawks are led by senior Daniel Putnam, who is hitting .411 and has scored 59 runs while driving in 22.
Senior Jeff Donovan has been a double-threat for the Warhawks. He is batting .390 and has hit 21 doubles and eight home runs while driving in 50 runs. Donovan is also a top pitcher for Whitewater, fashioning a 10-0 record. He has a 3.38 ERA and has 72 strikeouts. He has issued just 19 walks.
Riley Tincher is 10-3 and owns a 3.02 ERA. The senior has thrown 59 strikeouts and has walked only 14 batters. Senior Rob Coe has knocked in 47 runs and is hitting .351 on the year.
Whitewater is batting .315 as a team and eight players with at least 20 RBI. Putnam and Donovan are DIII All-Americans.
“It’s been great to watch our team grow during the season,.” Vodenlich said. “We have had some young guys step up and have had guys play in different positions. We have been getting timely hitting and good pitching at the right time of the year. That is how we won the regional and that is what we will need to play well this week.”
A year ago, Whitewater gave it all it had against Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the regional final but it wasn’t enough. The Warhawks walked off the field stinging from a 4-3 loss.
That loss served as motivation this season, especially after it ruined a 42-7 season.
“It was a tough game to lose. We had a hard time dealing with it,” Vodenlich said. “But I think it made us work even harder and now we are going to have a chance to play for the national championship. It’s a very rewarding feeling.”