May 25, 2010

Credit: Sara Weber

The first to go...
The 2010 NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship Series eliminated the first team today, and it was five-time champion and second-ranked University of Tampa. Four out of the five games played so far have been pitcher's duels. Up through last night's USI/Minn. State game, there had only been 11 runs scored total through the first three games. Last night's Southern Indiana(USI)/Minnesota State game, which ended at 2:30 AM ET, was the lone game with 14 runs. USI won 8-6, after Minnesota State scored five times in the bottom of the ninth to try for a comeback. In the elimination game today, Monday, Georgia College junior pitcher Jason Nicholas and the rest of the Bobcats held the high power offense of Tampa to one run. The Spartans, who outscored opponents in the south region tournament 61-26, could only muster one run through both of their opening round games in Cary. Head coach Joe Urso said, "...with Tampa, it is all or nothing - or it seems to turn out that way. We are either going for the title or we wind up being two-and-out" In 2003, Tampa was national runner-ups to Central Missouri, who this year beat them in game one on Saturday, 3-0, behind All-American senior pitcher Brooks Martin. In 2008, Tampa lost their first two games as well. That year Mount Olive won the national championship and they played that championship series in Sauget, IL. In Cary, Mount Olive serves as a co-host along with the town of Cary.

Rain rain go away...
Tomorrow, Tuesday, is the other elimination game where Minnesota State will meet Franklin Pierce at 3 PM ET. None of the games have started on time and almost all have been affected by rain. It has rained every day along with some lightning and thunder thrown in. The weather reports say it is supposed to clear up by Wednesday; not good for tournament organizers who still have to contend with the intermittent showers. Saturday's opening game started an hour later than scheduled and the second game started two hours and twenty-four minutes later than its original 5 PM ET scheduled start. Sunday's games were delayed by rain four times. The Kutztown/Franklin Pierce game had a forty-five minute delay, they started playing again and then there was a four hour delay. The game went twelve innings with Kutztown prevailing in the bottom of the 12th, 2-1 sometime after 10 PM. That game coupled with the rain delayed the start of the last opening round game for an 11:03 PM ET start.

Top-ranked team taking care of business...
No. 1 UC San Diego squeezed out a 3-2 win over No. 4 Georgia College in their opening game. UCSD's Tim Shibuya, second-team All-American, threw a complete eight-hit game, allowing only two runs. Third-team All-American Martin Dewald threw a complete game for the Bobcats, scattering eight hits while striking out nine, but was on the losing side of the equation as he allowed three runs. In UCSD's second game Monday night, senior pitcher Matt Rossman threw a complete 11-inning two-hit game, allowing only one earned one. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth as Central Missouri's Tyler Ruch doubled down the right field line. UCSD has advanced to the semi-finals with its 2-1 win over Central Missouri. Central Missouri now moves to the loser's bracket and will have to face Georgia College on Wednesday at 3 PM ET in another elimination game. From UCSD Coach O'Brien: "I'm proud of our seniors. Matt is a flat out winner. He is courageous. That was his game, his ball." He's conditioned and worked hard his whole career for that game right there. (on pitching 11 innings) They were focused on winning the first two games and getting into the driver's seat. They are well composed. (On getting ino the semi-finals and having two days off)

Winning pitcher Matt Rossman
Overall statement..
"I felt good - I had three pitches going to day - the cutter. I was keeping it down and they couldn't handle it. I knew I had to do my job by not letting that running get past second. I wanted to win the game rather than have a no-hitter."

Q & A
We talked to a player from the North, Minnesota, and then we talked with someone from the South, Georgia, to compare those styles of play. Here's their answers.....

Georgia College senior pitcher Ryan Tabor who hails from Lawrenceville, Ga. Ryan picked up the save in the 2-1 victory over Tampa. He was born and raised in Georgia.

Q: Why did you select Georgia College?
A: Went on a partial baseball scholarship and school had the best mix of baseball and academics.

Q: When did you start playing baseball?
A: Started at five years old

Q: Were you always able to be outside and not have to worry about cold or snow?
A: It rarely snows down here - if you can handle 32 degree weather, you can handle going outside.

Q: Do you think you guys have an advantage over a student-athlete who plays in a cold weather state such as Minnesota?
A: I don't know what they are able to do, but we play schools from the north in the early part of the season and they are coming straight out of the gym. Sometimes they look rusty, but if you don't take them seriously, they will come in here beat us and make us look not ready. I think there is a slight advantage because we have repetition, but once everyone is playing you have to do whatever you can to win.

Q: Talk about your team's play in the Southeast region and coming to the national championship series having to face number one and number two?
A: Our pitchers were prepared. Every starter stepped up and gave great starts every game and three out of the five games we only had to use one bullpen guy. This is the World sSeries - we knew there would be tough games. We can match up and beat any of the teams here.

Q: Do you think you have an advantage because you are from the South?
A: I think at this point everybody is ready. It comes down to execution. I think all the teams at this point are gonna be ready.

Minnesota State senior starting pitcher Patrick Lenton, who hails from Maple Grove, Minn. Patrick will start the second game for the Mavericks on Tuesday against Franklin Pierce.

Q: Where is Maple Grove?
A: Suburb right outside of Minneapolis.

Q: Did you always live in Minnesota?
A: Grew up there and lived there my whole life

Q: Did you always play baseball or did you grow up playing hockey also?
A: It's tough growing up in Minnesota and not playing hockey.

Q: How do you grow up in Minnesota and ply baseball?
A: Hockey is the all-year sport. You need something to do to get you outside. There are a lot of little leagues, pony leagues, babe ruth leagues... just kind of growing up there's parks all around - you play little league. All my friends played hockey and baseball. You do what your friends do.

Q: Why did you decide to go to school there (Minnesota State)?
A: Cause of the coaches. Coach Magers is the most down to earth person and tells you how it's gonna be .he's not gonna side-step you- he'll tell you how it is and be real upfront with you. It is something rare that you come across. Coaches will say things to get you to go there. He tells you up front.

Q: How did you decide which sport you wanted to play in college?
A: I was an average hockey player and a better baseball player-so I played baseball in college.

Q: How do you feel about the differences between northern baseball and southern baseball?
A: That's just it...they get to play year round like how hockey is in Minnesota. They get to play outside, they get to play on the grass...they get to hit on the field year-round. We were fortunate enough to get outside the end of March to play baseball where teams down in Georgia are playing baseball the first week in February. The exposure isn't as much as it is down south. Northern baseball is kind of an afterthought to all the other programs and things going on (like Big Ten sports), but it is nothing to be looked over.

Q: Do you think everyone is equal by the time they get to postseason play?
A: You don't get to this point by being average or slightly above average. We played southern teams and we beat them - the Florida teams, teams from Colorado, New Mexico. Once you get here, you are here because you deserve it and everyone is equal here.

Q: Is it exciting to be here after Minnesota State's 24 year absence from the tourney?
A: We got a good team - every year the talk is this is our year. We can play with anyone here.

All games will be played at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

NCAA National Championship brackets

NCAA Championship Central