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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | May 13, 2019

9 takeaways from the 2019 DII baseball championship bracket release

DII Baseball: 2019 Selection Show

The 2019 DII baseball championship is set. The NCAA Division II Baseball Committee announced the 56 selections to the tournament Sunday evening. 

DII BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: Brackets, schedule, streaming information, and FAQs

Let's take a look at what stood out on the bracket.

PSAC powers dominate the Atlantic

Poor Charleston (WV). The Golden Eagles are the lone team invited to the Atlantic party outside the PSAC. That may give them a slight advantage, being an unfamiliar foe to the rest of the region.

That said, this region is wide open. Millersville was our original pick for Cary, and with the second-best offense and a top pitching staff in the conference, they are still very much contenders. These teams know each other very well, and that will make it difficult for anyone to get the upper hand. Just take a look at the standings. Bloomsburg, owners of the best ERA in the PSAC, is the only team on a winning streak heading into the tournament.

You have to still love Mercyhurst's pitching as well. A rain-shortened PSAC tournament leaves a lot of questions unanswered, especially for an experienced team like West Chester, who was rolling winning nine of their last ten before the championship game was canceled.

The reigning champs are rolling

Augustana (SD) handled business once again, winning the NSIC and claiming the top seed in the Central. The Vikings are red hot as well, winners of nine straight. Several familiar faces from last year’s national title team are having stronger years and give the Vikings the look of a repeat contender.

Augustana (S.D.) wins the 2018 DII Baseball Championship

Riley Johnson has been the best of the bunch all season. But the one through four hitters — Michael Svozil, JT Mix, Johnson, and Jordan Barth — are an absolute nightmare to pitchers, blending that Augustana style of contact and speed with some well-timed pop. Barth, who missed pretty much all of April, has been zoned in since his return, entering the NCAA tournament on a six-game hit streak, four of which have been multi-hit performances. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since the 2006-07 Tampa Spartans, but the Vikings are certainly showing they can handle the run. Central Missouri, Minnesota State, and a sneaky good Central Oklahoma team will make it tough for sure, but the pieces are there. 

Little predictability should make for an interesting East

Not since Franklin Pierce's run of three-straight finals appearances from 2005-07 has there been a repeat winner in the East. That leaves the region as one filled with uncertainty, making everyone a contender.

Southern New Hampshire's pitching can't be denied. Jake Walkinshaw (7-1, 91 strikeouts, 1.90 ERA) returns from last year's team that made it to Cary, leading a staff that has the second-best ERA in DII baseball at 2.70. But like we said, repeat champions are a rarity in the East. No. 1 seed Adelphi is strong at the plate and on the mound but showed it is vulnerable, losing the play-in game to the NE10 tournament. Franklin Pierce, who arguably has the deepest history in the East, has had a hot May, winning seven of nine games and the NE10 championship. 

That's why a sleeper like NYIT is still fun to watch here and could make things very interesting. It will be fun to watch how Frank Catalanotto gets his troops to rally in the Bears' first DII tournament appearance in nearly four decades.

No. 1 Ashland has the unlikeliest foe in the opening round

Ashland has been a force all season, especially at home where the Eagles finished 16-0. Unfortunately, their “home” turf this week will be Kent State, but still close enough to have the raucous Eagles faithful on hand. There’s a lot to like about this team, especially with undefeated Devin Peters atop the rotation, but the Eagles have a flair for the dramatic and simply never give in with plenty a walk-off in 2019.

Ashland’s first-round opponent is perhaps the most intriguing in the entire field. Tiffin started the season 2-17, at one point losing ten in a row, against some of DII baseball’s stiffest competition, including two losses against Ashland. The Dragons turned it around finishing 22-12 and winning the G-MAC to gain entry into the tournament as the only team with a losing record. Tiffin, winners of its first-ever conference title, has won eight of its last nine and could be tricky if any team thinks they can sleep on the Dragons.

There are two No. 1 seeds in the South

Maybe three. Actually, probably four. You can argue that Tampa, Delta State, West Florida, and even Eckerd were all deserving of the No. 1 spot. Even No. 5-seeded Nova Southeastern finished tied atop the SSC. Outfielder Yorvis Torrealba has become an absolute beast for Tampa, hitting .417 with 11 home runs and 17 stolen bases while posting a 1.199 OPS, while Keven Pimentel and Mason Duke have been a tricky two-headed monster atop the rotation, making Tampa well-deserving of the honor.

Perhaps that same pitching is the Statesmen’s biggest strength. The past few years they were fueled by a potent offense led by Zack Shannon and Clay Casey, but this year it’s been the pitching that has made Delta State so dangerous, closing the season on a 17-3 run and the GSC championship over West Florida. Hunter Riggins and Dalton Milton have been lights out on the bump for Delta State, with Riggins coming off a complete game shutout against West Florida in the GSC tourney. Eckerd? All the Tritons did was win the SSC for the first time in 38 years. You won’t find many DII stars on their lineup card, but to win the SSC is no easy task.

TOURNAMENT FIELD: Here are the 23 conference champions | Selections announced

The Southeast has a few first-timers to contend with

Newberry enters the DII baseball tournament winners of 41 games and its first-ever SAC regular-season title. Young Harris comes into postseason play winners of its first conference title, taking the Peach Belt tournament. Unfortunately for them, the rest of this bracket is a pretty seasoned field. 

Watch Jeffrey Chandler leap over the wall to make the DII baseball catch of the year

Lincoln Memorial is making its third-straight trip to the Southeast Regional, while Catawba is only four years removed from the national championship game. Mount Olive took a one-year hiatus last season after making it every year from 2010-2017, and then there is North Greenville. The Crusaders have one of the scariest offenses in the entire field, backed by pretty solid pitching. For two newcomers to try to have to stop them — something not many have done this season — will certainly make it interesting.

Get ready for fireworks in the South Central

What do Colorado Mesa, Colorado School of Mines, Montana State Billings and Lubbock Christian all have in common? Yes, they all made the regional tournament, but all four teams finished in the top 15 in DII baseball in home runs. That will make it a fun few days in Colorado. 

Does that give five seed West Texas A&M a little advantage? Joe Corbett leads a pitching staff that is No. 2 in DII baseball in strikeouts per nine (12.3), in the top 20 in ERA, and has the lowest WHIP (1.30) in the region. Or does Lubbock Christian and its senior-heavy rotation and bats have an edge, seemingly waiting for this moment to shine? One way or the other, expect a few game-changing home runs to impact this part of the bracket. 

The West is wild once again

We're sticking to our guns. UC San Diego is still the team to beat here, having been to the final eight two years running. But even the mighty Tritons showed they have some chinks in their postseason armor, dropping both games to open the CCAA tournament for an early exit. Still, coach Eric Newman seems to find another gear come late May, and with Brandon Weed, Preston Mott, and Luke Mattson viable starters, this team will be a tough out from the West.

You just can't overlook Azusa Pacific or Point Loma, however. The Cougars are one of the most balanced teams in DII baseball, hitting .317 with 85 home runs and a ludicrous team OPS of .954 while leading the PacWest with a 3.59 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Don't forget about Cal Poly Pomona, however. The Broncos went from unranked to CCAA tournament champions, bumping UC San Diego from the tournament along the way. They certainly have the momentum going at the right time.

Updated predictions for the DII baseball championship
 

After the first regional rankings were released, we took a look at eight contenders we felt could head to Cary. Here's how it looked on April 25:

  • Millersville, St. Cloud State, NYIT, Wayne State (MI), Tampa, Colorado Mesa, North Greenville, UC San Diego 

Not much has changed after the selection show. As we all know, tournaments never go as expected. That's the best part about them. That said, let's take a guess at how the first Super Regionals in the DII baseball tournament could pan out.

  • Atlantic: Millersville, West Chester
  • Central: Augustana, Central Missouri
  • East: Franklin Pierce, Southern New Hampshire
  • Midwest: Ashland, Wayne State
  • South: Tampa, Delta State
  • Southeast: North Greenville, Catawba
  • South Central: Colorado Mesa, Lubbock Christian
  • West: Azusa Pacific, UC San Diego

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