DIII baseball weekend preview
Conference tournaments get into full swing in Division III
American Southwest Conference Tournament
Texas-Tyler is ranked sixth in the nation and enters the tournament after winning its fifth consecutive East Division title. The Patriots (33-4) are the two-time defending conference champions and will open a first round, best-of-three series this weekend at home against McMurry, which is making its 11th appearance in the tournament. Hardin-Simmons (28-11) is the top seed out of the West Division.
Senior Nick Clifton has been one of the top offensive threats for the Patriots all season and will need to step up if Texas-Tyler is going to deliver only the fourth championship for an East Division team in the 14-year history of the tournament. Clifton is batting .449 and has hit seven home runs. Senior Justin Juneau is also hitting above .400 (.403) and has knocked in 40 runs this season.
Championship: May 8
Centennial Conference Tournament
Johns Hopkins is hosting the conference tourney for the fifth time since 2002 and enter the tournament having won its last nine conference games. The Blue Jays (22-12) have been led by the play of Joe Borrelli, who is hitting .354 with 20 RBI. Jesse Sikorski is batting .339 with 32 RBI and seven home runs.
Alex Eliopoulus has been tough on the mound, going 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA. He has 45 strikeouts. Johns Hopkins is 10-1 at home this season and that home field advantage should give them an edge in their quest to win a fifth consecutive tournament crown.
Championship: May 1
North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament
Wooster enters the league tourney as the top seed and two-time defending tournament champion. The Fighting Scots will be looking for their 14th championship overall this weekend at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. The Fighting Scots have won six of the last 10 championships.
Freshman star Zac Mathie has been key to the success of Wooster (19-12), hitting .350 and driving in 32 runs. He has nine doubles on the season and four home runs. Senior standout Greg Van Horn owns a .416 batting average and has tallied 21 RBI this season. The Fighting Scots are hitting .301 as a team and holding opponents to a .275 average.
Wooster opens tourney play today against fourth-seeded Wittenberg.
Ohio Wesleyan (21-13) is the second seed in the tournament and is the only team to prevent the Fighting Scots from complete dominance in the NCAC, having won four of the last 10 championships, the last coming in 2008.
Championship: April 30, 1 p.m.
Great South Tournament
Piedmont (27-13) earned the top seed for the Great South tourney this weekend at Scotland Yard in Maryville, Tenn.
The Lions closed the season with three straight wins and tied the 2006 team for the second most wins in the NCAA era of the school. They will have a chance to add to that win total Friday when they take on LaGrange in the opening round of the tournament.
Sophomore pitcher Kevin Caldwell will likely need to take his game to another level if the Lions are to contend for the championship. Caldwell is 7-2 this season and has struck out 57. He has walked only 16 and owns a 2.82 ERA.
Senior Curtis Cornett has been a steady contributor at the plate, hitting .325 and driving in 36 runs. He has belted 15 doubles and four home runs on the season.
Championship: May 1, 1 p.m.
Wheaton (Mass.) head coach Eric Podbelski wasn’t too concerned about the delay that pushed back the championship round of the NEWMAC tournament to this weekend.
The top-seeded Lyons had three games on the schedule this week, splitting the first two, and will play a game against Eastern Connecticut Thursday before hosting the championship round of the league tourney on Saturday.
Wheaton rallied for a 4-3 win over MIT to earn a trip to the title round and will play either Babson or MIT for the championship this weekend at Sidell Stadium. The Lyons are 15-2 at home this year and are gunning for their 11th championship.
“The delay is being experienced by all of the teams involved and shouldn’t be too big of a deal,” Podbelski said. “We have a few games this week and that should keep us sharp.”
Babson and MIT will play at noon Saturday and the winner takes on the Lyons at 3:30 p.m. A second game, if necessary, would be played on Sunday.
The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and win or lose this weekend, Podbelski knows his team has work to do if it is to contend for a national title.
“We need to continue to improve in all areas. That is an ongoing process throughout the season,” Podbelski said. “No coach or player ever feels as if he is as good as he can possibly be. That’s why an athlete continues to play.”
Championship: April 30, 3:30 p.m.