This is what we wait all year for: The eight teams for the 2022 DII baseball championship are set. Play begins from the USA Baseball National Training Complex in beautiful Cary, N.C. on June 4.
TOURNEY TRACKER: Live updates and scores from the DII baseball championship
2022 DII baseball championship schedule
- June 4, 1:30 p.m. ET: No. 3 Southern Arkansas vs. No. 6 Rollins
- June 4, 6 p.m. ET: No. 2 Point Loma vs. No. 7 Illinois Springfield
- June 5, 1:30 p.m. ET: No. 4 Southern New Hampshire vs. No. 5 Angelo State
- June 5, 6 p.m. ET: No. 1 North Greenville vs. No. 8 West Chester
- June 6-11: TBD
This is one of the more intriguing fields that we have been treated to in recent lore. Just two teams return from the 2021 finals for another shot at DII baseball glory. The likelihood of a first-time DII baseball national champion is very high — seven of the eight teams have never even reached the championship game. Half the field is first timers and the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds are all making their debuts on the sports' grandest stage.
As I said heading into regionals, the competition in DII baseball is more level than ever before, and the mix in the finals shows that. Some of the best home run hitters in the nation will be on display, but let's not forget how deep and big those outfield gaps are at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. We should see some very balanced baseball, where one miscue could be what sends a team home. Here's a look at the field and then a prediction for the championship game.
8 for Cary: The 2022 DII baseball championship finals field
No. 1 North Greenville: The Crusaders are the first of three teams I projected on Jan. 27 (that's the preseason) to reach Cary. The schedule was daunting, playing ranked teams from opening day until defeating perennial contender Columbus State in the super regionals. This team went 50-10 against said schedule and it was in large part thanks to a veteran and exciting lineup. There is no one to pitch around and John Michael Faile and Marek Chlup are two of the best all-around hitters in the division.
No. 2 Point Loma: This is the stuff movies are made of: a program record-setting 48-8 season a year after winning a mere 11 games; the Sea Lions first-ever PacWest title; and now, the first trip to Cary in program history. While the team may be inexperienced on the big stage, head coach Justin James is no stranger. He was the pitching coach for the powerful UC San Diego teams that won the West in 2017 and 2018 (the Tritons also reached Cary in 2019 after James left for Point Loma, just a remarkable run). Those same attributes that made UCSD so dangerous on an annual basis (premier pitching, solid fielding and timely hitting) are clearly visible in Point Loma. This is one of the most dangerous teams in the whole field.
No. 3 Southern Arkansas: The Muleriders are heading back to the finals for the first time since its NAIA days in the early 1990s. It was quite the way to get here: Trailing 11-6 in the ninth, the Muleriders ran up seven runs to sweep Augustana (SD) in the super regionals. What makes Southern Arkansas so scary right now is this run it is on. After losing its final game of the regular season, the Muleriders swept its way to the GAC title, swept its way through the Central Regional and then swept Augustana, one of the best teams in the country, in the supers. They've done so by scoring no fewer than seven runs in all of its nine-straight postseason wins.
No. 4 Southern New Hampshire: There are two teams from the 2021 DII baseball championship finals back in Cary and as it turns out, the two will play each other (see below). As it also turns out, despite these two being national powers, it is the first time either have played each other. The Penmen, which were the second of three teams I predicted in the preseason to get this far, are becoming all too accustomed with deep runs in the tournament, this being their fourth trip to Cary in the past 10 years. The Penmen have three solid options out of the bullpen, which will be needed against a lineup like Angelo State.
No. 5 Angelo State: Well, as I said in the DII baseball championship preview, whichever team I predict over the years — either Colorado Mesa or Angelo State — the opposite prevails. History has once again repeated itself (so, does that count as the right prediction at this point?) and Angelo State fought back after a first-game loss to power through the super regionals and defeat Colorado Mesa (my prediction) to advance.
The Rams are back in Cary for the second-straight year, and third time since 2016. The battle with Colorado Mesa was a good one and showed just how explosive this offense is. The big question is whether the pitching (5.19 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) will hold up against these elite lineups — because after scoring 36 runs in three super-regional games, we know the offense is just fine.
No. 6 Rollins: Coming out of the South is no easy task. Rollins swept its way through the regional and super regional, first defeating Tampa in a thrilling one-run ballgame before erupting for 13 runs in the Cary clincher. It's the first trip to the finals for the Tars in nearly 20 years, last going in 2004. The Tars were in and out of the Power 10 rankings throughout the season, so this shouldn't come as a huge surprise. Rollins isn't a flashy team statistically, but the Tars are extremely balanced, with a nice blend of power and contact hitters, as well as a very deep pitching staff. The South Region tends to fare very well in Cary, so don't sleep on the Tars.
No. 7 Illinois Springfield: The Prairie Stars are another team that I projected in the preseason to make it to Cary, and here we are. I picked them for two primary reasons: Zion Pettigrew and Kal Youngquist. Pettigrew, in particular, has consistently been one of the single-most dominant performers in DII baseball for a few years running, and this is the big stage he deserves to let the rest of the world know he has MLB draft potential. The lineup overall is straight fire with five players blasting at least 10 home runs, so it will come down to whether or not the Prairie Stars pitching shows up.
No. 8 West Chester: The Golden Rams have had an interesting run to Cary. They were bumped from the PSAC tournament after one game. Then they had to come back and beat Seton Hill twice in the regionals and do the same against East Stroudsburg in the supers. But here is West Chester, in its third DII baseball championship finals since 2012. The previous two times, the Golden Rams won, making them the lone program in the field of eight to have won a title. They have a pair of very capable starters that can make lineups sweat it out in a playoff format, so don't be surprised by another signature West Chester run in the finals.
Championship game prediction
Remember, the DII baseball finals are a double-elimination tournament. Unlike DII softball that resets for a best-of-three championship series between the final two teams standing, DII baseball does not. If both teams get to the championship round without a loss, we have the traditional three-game series, but if either have a loss, it could be one and done.
So, who do I see playing for the title this year?
North Greenville vs. Point Loma: Not too exciting, right? Picking the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds is really putting myself out there, but both are here for good reason.
The Crusaders have been on the brink for years now. They happen to play in what has arguably become the toughest region (the Southeast) in DII baseball. Wingate is the defending champs, Columbus State is historically one of the best in DII baseball, and until this year, Catawba was a DII tournament staple. This team has a ridiculous lineup, and the coaching staff has managed the pitching extremely well. North Greenville tested itself every week this season and deservedly got the No. 1 seed.
I've written (or typed as the case may be) ad nauseam about why Point Loma has what it takes to win it all. Pitching, more pitching, ridiculous fielding and smart hitting. I've been to too many DII baseball championship finals that have seen costly errors abruptly end a strong team's run in Cary, so the defense cannot be understated. And then of course, there is Baxter Halligan, who was both the player and pitcher of the year out West. Baseball is a team sport, but a talent like this is a game changer.