May 21, 2010

By Sara Weber

We've shrunk the field from 48 to eight teams remaining. All are vying for that coveted national championship. Here is a breakdown of the eight teams competing in the 2010 NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship Series and how they got there. All games will be played at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

NCAA National Championship brackets:

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    NCAA Championship Central: Click Here

    Links to the national polls:
    NCAA-II Poll:

    **UCSD is still No. 1 in all three polls. They have not done a new poll since before regionals began.

    Let's start with the West and the current No. 1 team in the land, UC San Diego (UCSD)

    UCSD breezed through their conference tournament and the West region to earn their way to Cary.

    School: University of California at San Diego Tritons
    Region Seed: 1 West
    Ranking: No. 1 in all three polls
    Record: 51-7
    Head Coach (record): Dan O'Brien (13th Season, 409-267-1)
    Conference: CCAA
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, 3rd place national finish
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: They won the CCAA tournament and breezed through the West region last weekend by beating Hawaii Pacific 9-4 in the regional championship. Since losing one game to Cal State Dominguez Hills in the CCAA tourney, the Tritons have won four straight.
    Top Players: Senior first baseman Brandon Gregorich (CCAA Player of the Year and NCBWA West Region Player of the Year) is hitting .469 and is aiming to break a school record set in 1987 when the record was .465. He has 99 hits, 29 doubles, and 84 RBI - all UCSD records. Catcher Kellen Lee is hitting .423. The pitching staff is led by CCAA Pitcher of the Year and NCBWA West region Pitcher of the Year, Matt Rossman. He is 9-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Tim Shibuya is 12-2 with a 1.95 ERA through 15 appearances.

    Notes: As a team, UCSD is hitting .371. The team broke several school records this season including the record for wins in a season with 51 so far; plus, they have scored 536 runs. They bring a potent offense and a battle-tested defense to the table. The Tritons also look to improve on their nation semi-final finish from last year where they lost to national runner-up Emporia State.

    COMMENTS/QUOTES FROM COACH O'BRIEN (NCBWA West Region Coach of the Year):
    On winning the West Region:
    "It's really hard to put into words just how proud I am of this team. You know, to come out and play the way they have played all season long with every opponent gunning for them, is truly amazing. We've got a special group of kids and they've worked hard each and every day to get to this point."

    On returning to Cary for the second year in a row:
    "It means a lot to be going back. I'm really just excited for our program. You strive to find that consistency, not only in wins and losses, but on a year-to-year basis, as well. We've been consistent all season and we've found ways to win games. That's what you want from your guys and we're excited to take the field in Cary."

    On playing for a national championship:
    "It's something we've talked about every day in practice. We've accomplished one of our goals and now we just have to finish what we started."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 1, Saturday, May 22 at 5 PM vs. No. 4 Georgia College (39-15)

    School: University of Tampa Spartans
    Region Seed: 2 South
    Ranking: 2 in Coaches, 2 in PING!, 3 in NCBWA
    Record: 46-9
    Head Coach (record): Joe Urso (10th Season, 448-135-1)
    Conference: SSC (Sunshine State Conference)
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, NCAA South region tournament
    NCAA Titles: 5, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2006, 2007

    How they got here: They are the second-ranked team in the South region and second-ranked team nationally. They clinched the SSC title outright and the automatic bid with a sweep of arch-rival Florida Southern on their last regular season series weekend. They proceeded through the South region tournament beating all top seeds to stay in the winner's bracket. Top-seed Southern Arkansas forced a second game on regional championship day, but the Spartans crushed them, 20-3 to win the South region championship.
    Top Players: The Spartans are led by SSC Player of the Year and First-team All Region senior designated hitter Mike Schwartz who is batting .423 with 78 runs scored and 11 HR. Senior OF Tyler Cox (All SSC First-team) is batting .367 with 61 hits and junior IF Patrick Donahue (All SSC First-team) is at .399 with 17 doubles and 69 hits. First-team All-SSC starting pitcher junior Josh Bowman anchors the pitching staff with a 4.00 ERA, 77 strikeouts, and a 8-4 record. Junior Evan Stobbs (SSC Honorable mention) has ten saves, an ERA of 0.82 and 23 strikeouts through 21.2 innings pitched. Catcher Mike Blanke was the South region MVP.

    Notes: Joe Urso, the SSC and South Region Coach of the Year, is now UT's all-time winningest baseball coach. They won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007; went back to the Champ series in 2008, but went two and out. In 2003, they were the national runner-up to National Champion Central Missouri. The Spartans are looking to win another national championship where they have dominated that tournament most of this decade. Outscored opponents 64-16 in the games they won at the region tourney.

    On winning the South:

    "Big credit to our pitching. We are very excited to get through a tough south region and a tough team such as Southern Arkansas. I thought our team played really well against."

    On playing the teams in the national championship series:
    "This world series is loaded with talent with a lot of the nationally ranked teams being in the tournament. It is gonna be another hard fought week. Hopefully we can stay consistent with our pitching. That will be the key and our defense. Our offense has been good all year. Heading into the series, there will be a lot of top pitchers in this tournament. I think it will ultimately come down to our starting pitchers keeping it close through those first five, six, seven innings and then turning it over to our offense to hopefully hit against tired pitchers."

    On playing Central Missouri:
    "We know we are facing a very tough pitcher. We know we have a very tough matchup. It will be like that every game. Key is to stay in winner's bracket. We keep preaching to these guys how important it is to stay in winner's bracket. We were runner-up to them in 2003."

    Looking ahead:
    "This tourney will be very similar to the one we just got through. It's the same focus for our group and great competition again. Hopefully we are prepared for this great competition and hopefully we can get into that winner's bracket."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 1, Saturday, May 22 at 1 PM vs. No. 3 Central Missouri (51-9)

    School: Georgia College and State University Bobcats
    Region Seed: 3 Southeast
    Ranking: 4 in Coaches, 12 in PING!, 19 in NCBWA
    Record: 39-15
    Head Coach (record): Tom Carty (3rd season, 208-86)
    Conference: Peach Belt Conference
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, Southeast region tournament, 1995 National Runner-up to Florida Southern
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: Lost in the PBC Tournament and grabbed an at-large bid. Finished first in the PBC West standings with a 19-5 mark. Won second regional crown in school history by blanking top-seed Francis Marion, 9-0 for the title. This is only the Bobcats' second appearance in the NCAA National Championship Series. They breezed through the Southeast region winning four games and are on a four-game winning streak.

    Top Players: Leading the Bobcats are All-PBC First-team selections second baseman Jason Veyna, starting pitcher and Region Pitcher of the Year Martin Dewald, and outfielder and All-region Sean Harrell. Harrell is batting .453 with 11 homeruns and 20 stolen bases. Veyna adds a .319 average with 60 hits. Also, outfielder Shawn Ward (All-PBC First-team) clubbed 16 homeruns while batting .364. Dewald, the region tourney MOP owns an 11-2 record with 108 strikeouts and 3.56 ERA through 103.2 innings of work.

    Notes: 2009 marked the third time in four years the team went to the NCAA tournament. Tom Carty was named PBC Coach of the Year. The last time the Bobcats went to the National Championship Series was 1995, when they were national runner-ups to Florida Southern.

    "We talk a lot about opportunity for our players," said GCSU head coach Tom Carty. "The opportunity to compete in our regional, the opportunity to compete in the Peach Belt, and now we have the opportunity to compete for a National Championship. It's been hard, but hopefully our guys can keep their heads on straight. We need to get on the bus, get going to North Carolina and focus again on playing baseball. We have accomplished a lot, but we still have more to do, and hopefully we can come back home with a National Championship."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 1, Saturday, May 22 at 5 PM vs. No. 1 UCSD (51-7)

    School: University of Central Missouri Mules
    Region Seed: 1 South Central
    Ranking: 3 in Coaches, 4 in PING!, 2 in NCBWA
    Record: 51-9
    Head Coach (record): Tommy Myers (3rd season, 142-41)
    Conference: MIAA (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association)
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, South Central region tournament
    NCAA Titles: 2, 1994 and 2003, also finished fourth in 2008

    How they got here: Won the MIAA Tournament and grabbed the automatic bid. Finished first in the MIAA with a 34-6 mark. Went undefeated in the South Central region until the final day where Abilene Christian forced a second and deciding championship game, which the Mules won, 11-4. They had lost the first game, 11-5.
    Top Players: Senior centerfielder Chance Tuttle is the MIAA Player of the Year and South Central Region Player of the Year. He leads the team with a .429 batting average and has slammed 15 homeruns and stolen 26 bases. Joining him on the All-MIAA First-team and All-Region team are senior righty Brooks Martin and junior first baseman Nick DeBiasse. Martin sports an 11-0 record with a 2.33 ERA through 13 appearances. He also has 97 strikeouts. DeBiasse, the region tourney MVP, is batting .415 with 17 homeruns and 77 RBI.

    Notes: Tommy Myers is the 2010 MIAA Coach of the Year. In 2003, the Mules defeated perennial power Tampa to win their second national championship. Coach Myers was the 2008 NABC Central Region Coach of the Year. This looks to be one of the marquee matchups of the first weekend.

    General thoughts after winning the South Central:
    "Obviously we are very thrilled to come out and play better in game two. Our team had to do some things that they are not used to and that is getting behind in both games and try to find a way to fight back thru it. We did that. We did just enough things right to get back into the game and then extend that lead once we had it. But the key, and number one thing, was our bullpen. Aaron Brett, Alex Kent and Nick Phillips kept us in the game the whole time and allowed us to do our thing at the plate and score some runs. Cory Deedrick defensively plays on the pop ups go a long way and don't get seen here. Brett's plays and Kent's play on the come backer with two runners on. All those things that add up to a great outcome I think need to be mentioned." Came out in the second game against Abilene Christian and had to make some great plays. "Oh, yeah no question. That's the beauty of a regional tournament. It truly prepares you for what you can expect at the World Series. No question there were five other teams that are worthy of playing for a national championship. So we are very fortunate and proud of our guys and our team for their accomplishments this week."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 1, Saturday, May 22 at 1 PM vs. No. 2 Tampa (46-9)

    School: Kutztown University Golden Bears
    Region Seed: 1 Atlantic
    Ranking: 6 in Coaches, 14 in PING!, 9 in NCBWA
    Record: 41-13
    Head Coach (record): Chris Blum (8th season, 300-126)
    Conference: PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference)
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, NCAA Atlantic region
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: Top-ranked in the Atlantic division, PSAC Tournament runner-ups, second place finish in the PSAC with 16-8 record. Won the Atlantic region by coming up through the loser's bracket (they lost to Cal(Pa.) 4-3 in the first game).and defeating second-seeded West Chester twice on region championship day to claim the title, 14-5 and 2-0. The region championship game was Coach Blum's 300th victory.
    Top Players: The Golden Bears are led by PSAC East Player of the Year and All-Region First-team sophomore 3B Shane Houck, who is batting .466 with a team-leading 17 homeruns, 23 doubles, and 77 RBI. He is followed by teammate NCBWA Atlantic region first-team senior first baseman Jared Frey, who is hitting .401 with 47 RBI and 65 hits. Shortstop Mike Kacelowicz was the Atlantic region tourney MVP. He is batting .326 with 14 doubles.

    Notes: Coach Blum is the Atlantic region Coach of the Year. Kutztown returns to the National Championship Series after a three-year break. In its last trip in 2007, Kutztown lost to Nebraska-Omaha, 5-4 in 10 innings and Cal. State-Los Angeles, 4-1. That year, Tampa won the title.

    On winning the Atlantic Region
    "It's always an honor to be the regional champions. It would've been nice to win the PSAC tournament but we didn't play as well as we liked during that time. We had something to prove during regionals. I would have loved to go 4-0 in the regional tournament, but it wasn't meant to be. For these seniors it was incredible and from everybody on the team. I asked for them to do a lot for me and they were just phenomenal out there."

    On earning career coaching victory No. 300 against West Chester in the regional final
    "It does mean a lot but it doesn't mean as much as the team going to the World Series. That's what we set out to do. That's what these seniors set out to do at the start of the season. We knew it would be a team effort with everybody helping along the way. The 300 is nice, but it's a distant second to going to Cary, NC."

    On participating in the Division II Baseball National Championships
    "It means a lot to be able to advance to this point of the season. The team is excited and we're just thrilled with the opportunity to continue playing for a national title and represent Kutztown University."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 2, Sunday, May 23 at 1 PM vs. No. 13 Franklin Pierce (41-15-1)

    School: Franklin Pierce University Ravens
    Region Seed: 2 East
    Ranking: 13 in Coaches, 25 in PING!, 24 in NCBWA
    Record: 41-15-1
    Head Coach (record): Jayson King (12th season, 406-206-2)
    Conference: Northeast 10 Conference
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, East region tournament
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: Lost in finals of NE 10 tournament. Finished second in regular season standings to SCSU with a 19-6-1 conference mark. Fought through the loser's bracket of the East region tourney and defeated top-seed Southern Connecticut State on championship day twice, 2-1 and 6-3, to claim the title.
    Top Players: Junior right-hander Jose Macias was named Northeast-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year and an ALL-NE-10 First-team selection; he was also named East region Pitcher of the Year. He sports a 9-1 record with an astounding 0.96 ERA through 84.2 innings of work. He has thrown 110 strikeouts. Joining him on the ALL-NE-10 first-team and All-East region teams are senior right fielder Phil Hendricks and sophomore catcher Mike Dowd. Hendricks is batting .366 with 21 doubles and 41 RBI and Dowd is at .311 with 13 doubles. Hendricks was also the East tourney MVP.

    Notes: The team has won four NCAA Northeast Region titles and in 2007, they won the Northeast-10 Regular season and tournament titles. This is their fifth trip in seven years to the National Championship Series. They lost to eventual champion Tampa in 2007.

    "To win the Regional this year the way we did out of the loser's bracket is something that I am very proud of our players for doing. They showed a lot of heart, determination and focus to make that happen. This is a special trip to the World Series this year because of that. It is also special for our program to be making our 5th trip to the World Series over the last 7 years."

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 2, Sunday, May 23 at 1 PM vs. No. 6 Kutztown (41-13)

    School: Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks
    Region Seed: 2 Central
    Ranking: 11 in Coaches, 29 in PING!, 15 in NCBWA
    Record: 44-14
    Head Coach (record): Matt Magers (2nd season, 82-31)
    Conference: NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference)
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, Central region tournament
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: The Mavericks won the NSIC Tournament championship by beating Southwest Minnesota State, 6-5. Came up through the winner's bracket of the central tourney and had to defeat sixth-seeded St. Cloud State only once, but St. Cloud State won the first game on championship day, 16-6. The Mavericks responded with a 20-6 concrete defeat in the second and deciding game to win the title.

    Top Players: Sophomore right-hander Blake Schwartz is the NSIC Pitcher of the Year and Central region Pitcher of the Year. He is 10-2 with a 3.79 ERA. He also has 64 strikeouts through 94.1 innings of work. Outfielder/pitcher Danny Miller was named central tourney MVP and he is also Central All-Region. He is batting .338 with 16 doubles and six triples. On the mound, he is 3-0 with a 3.89 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

    Notes: The Mavericks set a new single-season hits record with 659 and a single-season runs scored record with 461. The last time the Mavericks were in the National Championship Series was 1986 in Montgomery, Ala., when they finished fourth. They have the largest gap between appearances with 14 years. This marks their fifth time advancing to the national stage.

    I think, in general, our goal is to play hard and I think we've seen that the last couple of weeks. We've been battling all along, all the way from pitch-to-pitch to the end of every game. We've had a lot of guys step up during the course of the season with the entire roster contributing to our success.

    It was an ultimate goal for us to get to the NCAA Division II championship tournament and to accomplish that is one thing we can check off the list. This may be a once in a lifetime experience for these guys, so obviously we're extremely excited to be heading to Cary.

    Our expectations for the tournament are to continue to play good baseball. Everything we've heard (about Cary), we know it's going to be a positive experience. For our seniors - this is just tremendous way to cap their season and careers here at Minnesota State. We're looking forward to playing our best baseball at this time of year and we plan on taking it all in.

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 2, Sunday, May 23 at 5 PM vs. No. 9 Southern Indiana (48-13)

    School: University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles
    Region Seed: 1 Midwest
    Ranking: 9 in Coaches, 17 in PING!, 11 in NCBWA
    Record: 48-13
    Head Coach (record): Tracy Archuleta (4th season, 166-75)
    Conference: GLVC (Great Lakes Valley Conference)
    NCAA Last appearance: 2009, Midwest region tournament
    NCAA Titles: 0

    How they got here: The Screaming Eagles won the GLVC Tournament and the automatic bid. They fought back through the loser's bracket and a few ejections to reach region championship day and defeat Grand Valley State twice by scores of 7-3 and 11-4.
    Top Players: All-GLVC First-team and All-Region junior catcher Dylan Mooney leads the charge for the Eagles batting .382 with 14 homeruns, 13 doubles, and 83 hits. Joining him on the GLVC First-team is teammate junior outfielder Michael Huling who is batting .402 with 74 hits. Brad Vance was the Midwest region tourney MVP. He is batting .286 with ten homeruns.

    Notes: Coach Archuleta is the Midwest Region Coach of the Year. The GLVC baseball title is the first for the Eagles since 1993. They have remained at the top in the region all season. Southern Indiana was in the National Championship series in 2007; they lost to eventual champion Tampa. They went 2-2 that year. The Eagles have appeared in the NCAA II Tournament three times in the last four seasons.

    USI is a hard working team that has overcome some early-season adversity to have one of the best seasons in the history of the program," said USI Head Coach Tracy Archuleta. "The team showed what it was made of in the regional, coming back to win two games against a good Grand Valley State team on the final day.

    "We are exciting team to watch with speed and a solid defense," continued Archuleta. "Our pitching staff is very durable which will serve us well throughout tournament.

    "We are very proud to be making our second trip to the national championship series and play in Cary," concluded Archuleta.

    FIRST GAME: Bracket 2, Sunday, May 23 at 5 PM vs. No. 11 Minnesota State (44-14)


    Location, location, location...
    This is the second year that the Division II Baseball National Championship is being contested in Cary, North Carolina. The town of Cary and Mount Olive College took over hosting duties after the tourney called Montgomery, Alabama home for 22 years. There was a brief experiment in Sauget, Illinois in the 2008 season, where the series was at a minor league ballpark outside of St. Louis, before Cary was decided for 2009. Lynn University Fighting Knights of the Sunshine State Conference is the reigning national champion, having won the first time the tourney was contested in North Carolina. Lynn did not make the NCAA field this year.

    Have you returned lately?
    All eight teams have been to the national championship series with Minnesota State having the largest gap (14 years). UCSD (the shortest gap - last year), is the only team to return in consecutive years to Cary. They lost in the semi-finals last year to national runner-up Emporia State. The first bracket is top heavy with all the top four ranked teams in the country. In one poll, UCSD is one, followed by Tampa at two, Central Missouri at three, and Georgia College at four. There is more parity in the second bracket. Georgia College Central Missouri, and Tampa travel well as they will all bring many fans and family. The inaugural PING! Tino Martinez Division II Player of the Year award will be decided this week in Cary.