The 2019 DII baseball championship tournament heads to Super Regionals weekend May 24-25. Sixteen teams are looking for a spot in the finals in Cary, North Carolina.
Here's the thing. All 16 teams are capable of advancing. This field is stacked, and even more so, the teams are incredibly even in each region. Before the first pitch, let’s take a look at a few storylines that stand out.
SUPER REGIONALS: Schedule, stats, and scores from every Super Regional game
The reigning national champions are still in the mix
Augustana (SD) won the program’s first-ever DII baseball championship in dominating fashion, sweeping through the competition in Cary last year. That domination continued in the Central Region 1 bracket, where the Vikings didn’t lose a single game to advance to play a strong Central Missouri team in the Super Regionals.
BRACKETS: Print your bracket
The Vikings aren’t alone, however. We have a chance to see half the field return to the DII baseball championship finals from 2018. UC San Diego is looking to make its third straight trip to the finals but has a powerful Azusa Pacific lineup with which to contend. Mercyhurst and its strong pitching face an upstart Charleston (WV) team that had little issue with its half of the regional bracket. And Southern New Hampshire returns its pitching and big bats from their 2018 national semifinals run but have perhaps the biggest underdog turned contender in the tournament to face in NYIT. Chances are we’ll see a couple of familiar faces in Cary. The only question is how many.
The South Super Regional is must-see baseball
Tampa has represented the South in the finals four times since 2010. Delta State has advanced twice. These are two DII baseball powerhouses vying for one spot in Cary and that just makes for good baseball.
You want starting pitching? You got it. Delta State is No. 2 in DII baseball with a 2.68 ERA and Tampa is not far behind at 3.48. WHIP? Both teams are in the top 15 there, too. Don’t think this is all pitching, though, because each team has game-changing bats that will play a big role in the final outcome. Tampa’s outfielder Yorvis Torrealba has been on absolute fire. He's on an 11-game hitting streak in which he’s recorded 22 hits to raise his season average to .420. Delta State’s Jake Barlow has been steady all year, hitting .327 while leading the team in runs scored (47), home runs (11), and RBI (53).
These two teams are amongst the very best in the country, never mind the region. It should be a fun one to follow.
SUPER REGIONAL BOUND!!!!! pic.twitter.com/FKp94CfnIj— Delta State Baseball (@DeltaStateBSB) May 18, 2019
Plenty of history in the South Central
Last season, Texas A&M-Kingsville shocked the South Central Region and advanced to the finals for the first time in program history. The four years before that, however, the region was dominated by Angelo State and Colorado Mesa, the same two teams battling in the Super Regional this weekend.
If you like offense, this may be the series of the weekend for you. Angelo State leads DII baseball with a .357 average, but Colorado Mesa is sixth with a .334. Josh Elvir has made a case as good as any for the DII player of the year, leading DII in batting average (.464) and OPS (1.601), while leading the Rams in home runs (19), runs scored (74), and RBI (78). The Mavericks are amongst the most power-happy teams in DII baseball with four players — Jordan Stubbings, Hunter Douglas, Dominic DeMarco, and Hayden McGeary — with double-digit home runs.
There should be a lot of firepower in the South Central, but don't overlook the West. Azusa Pacific, led by the DII leader in home runs Cole Kleszcz, has one of the best offenses in the entire land. This matchup of the Cougars offense vs. the UC San Diego pitching should be one of the more intriguing all weekend.
Will Catawba slow down North Greenville’s offense?
Probably not. But that’s not to say they can’t win, it’s just that nobody has slowed down North Greenville’s offense. The Crusaders are third in DII in runs scored have scored seven or more runs in 12 of the last 14 games. So it’s not a matter of slowing them down, it’s a matter of keeping up.
That’s why North Greenville is so tough. Not only are the Crusaders a top scoring team in DII, but their pitching staff also keeps runners off the board with the fourth-lowest ERA in the division at 3.17 and off the base paths with the second-best WHIP in DII at 1.18. The Crusaders are as well-rounded as any team remaining in the tournament and will be a very tough out. Catawba’s pitching has delivered in big games, especially ace Bryan Ketchie, so the Indians will look to send a message right out of the gates.
HISTORY: Programs with the most titles
Final 8 for Cary
When the first regional rankings came out on April 25, we came up with a quick eight teams we felt could make it to Cary. They were:
Millersville, St. Cloud State, NYIT, Wayne State (MI), Tampa, Colorado Mesa, North Greenville, UC San Diego
After the tournament field was selected, we took an updated glimpse of what the Super Regionals would look like:
• 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
So far, we’ve been a little better than half right, so who is our final 8 for Cary?
Mercyhurst: We liked this team from the start but repeat champions in the Atlantic are a rarity. Still, this pitching matches up nicely in a three-game series, even against this tough Charleston team.
Central Missouri: Reigning champs or one of the more dominant teams in the Central Region’s history? Augustana has all the pieces to return to Cary to go for a repeat, but the Mules' Mason Janvrin and Erik Webb have been a total nightmare of late, giving Central Missouri a shot at its 18th regional crown.
NYIT: They were our sleeper from the start, and though they go against a team full of postseason experience and the DII leaders in ERA in SNHU, this storybook run doesn’t seem to want to end just yet.
Ashland: This was so hard to choose. Both teams have three solid starting pitchers, and their offenses are evenly matched as well. This is the furthest the Prairie Stars have ever been in the postseason, and that could work for or against them. So why Ashland? The host team is a perfect 16-0 at home this season, and that's just tough to beat.
Tampa: We wish both teams could keep playing, but someone has to win. We’ll give the ever-so-slight edge to the home team.
Angelo State: Again, we’ll give a slight edge to the home team. This one could go either way, but Elvir’s bat is hard to go against right now.
North Greenville: The Crusaders are too balanced; this is one of the best teams left standing.
UC San Diego: The Tritons starting pitchers Preston Mott, Brandon Weed, and Luke Mattson make for a tough weekend even for Azusa Pacific’s ridiculously potent lineup. The Cougars Cole Kleszcz could change the tide of the series in a single swing, but UCSD’s recent run gives them the edge, but don't be surprised to see the Cougars blast their way to Cary.