|Fabio Ricci is batting .410 on a team batting .320 as the Cortland Red Dragons look to repeat as national champions.
d3photography.com photo by Larry Radloff
Follow this regional
By John McGraw
The NCAA regionals return to Auburn’s Falcon Park for the second year in a row and 11th time in the last 17 years. And for the second year in a row, four regions will be represented. Five teams from the New York region made the NCAA Tournament (Cortland, Oswego State, St. John Fisher, Union, St. Joseph’s, L.I.) but just two of those five will play in Auburn. While there won’t be a New York State of Mind in Auburn, there will be more of a World Series-like feel as Falcon Park will host three of last year’s World Series participants.
Cortland, Frostburg State and Ramapo all were in the same pod at last year’s World Series. Cortland emerged victorious from the pod, which also included Webster, and went on to defeat UW-La Crosse in the national championship series. Despite being in the same pod, Cortland and Ramapo did not meet in the World Series last year – the Red Dragons and the Roadrunners are seeded first and second respectively in Auburn.
The top seed in Auburn is also the No. 1 team overall and the defending national champions. Cortland has never missed the NCAA regionals under current skipper Joe Brown and will be making its 25th NCAA playoff appearance and 24th in a row. The powerhouse Red Dragons have won 13 regional titles in the past 21 years. Cortland won the SUNYAC regular season and tournament championships.
Ramapo finished third in the NJAC and then emerged victorious from the conference tournament. The Roadrunners are one of three NJAC teams in the field. Like Cortland, Ramapo is no stranger to the NCAA postseason, making its 16th tournament appearance and fifth in six years. Frostburg State earned one of 14 Pool C at-large bids and the Bobcats from the South Region were tabbed as Auburn’s third seed. Frostburg won the CAC regular season championship.
The Auburn regional includes two teams apiece from New York and the Mid-Atlantic, one team from New England and another from the South. The second Mid-Atlantic region team is Landmark Conference champion Susquehanna. The potent offense of the Crusaders (.340 team batting average) is ranked among the top 10 nationally in Division III and Susquehanna slugged its way to both the Landmark regular season and tournament titles. The school is making its second NCAA tournament appearance in three years.
Aside from Cortland, Liberty League champion Union is the only other Empire State side in the Auburn field. The Dutchmen won their league’s regular season title and then swept through the conference tournament unbeaten to claim a Pool A tournament bid. Union is also making its second NCAA tournament appearance in three years. North Atlantic Conference champion Castleton rounds out the field of six. The Spartans overcame Husson in the NAC title game to win their third conference championship in a row. Castleton will be making its third trip to the Finger Lakes in the last five years.
Meet the teams
Auburn Regional schedule
Wednesday, May 18
Game 1 - No. 1 Cortland (37-5) vs. No. 6 Castleton (32-10), 11 a.m.
Game 2 - No. 2 Ramapo (33-10-1) vs. No. 5 Union (26-12), 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 - No. 3 Frostburg State (30-12) vs. No. 4 Susquehanna (29-14), 6 p.m.
Thursday, May 19
Game 4 - Castleton vs. Union, 11 a.m.
Game 5 - Cortland vs. Frostburg State, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6 - Ramapo vs. Susquehanna, 6 p.m.
Friday, May 20
Game 7 - Cortland vs. Ramapo 11 a.m.
Game 8 - Castleton vs. Susquehanna, 2:30 p.m.
Game 9 - Ramapo vs. Susquehanna, 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 21
Game 10 - Cortland vs. Susquehanna, 12 p.m.
Game 10 - Susquehanna vs. Cortland, 3 p.m.
Cortland. The Red Dragons have won 16 straight games and enter the NCAA regionals for the second year in a row with so few losses that you can count them on one hand. Cortland won its seventh Auburn regional crown last May en route to the program’s first ever national championship. Cortland cobbled together a 10-0 mark against teams in this year’s NCAA field.
Most likely to disappoint
Frostbug State. The third-seeded Bobcats, a World Series participant in 2015, made the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection out of the Capital Athletic Conference. Frostburg State grabbed the CAC regular season championship but faltered in the loop’s postseason tournament dropping a first round game to Penn State Harrisburg (14-0) and then rallying to make the title tilt only to fall to Salisbury in a one-run thriller. Frostburg also stumbled in its final two regular season games, losing to Otterbein and NCAA participant LaRoche. In the CAC tournament, Frostburg conceded 41 runs in four games. If the Bobcats continue to let up runs in bunches, their stay in Auburn will be short-lived.
Union. The red-hot Dutchmen enter the NCAA tournament winners of nine games in a row and 11 out of their last 12. Union swept through the Liberty League tournament to claim its second NCAA bid in the last three years. Junior southpaw Jake Fishman (7-0, 0.31 ERA, 6 CG, 58.0 IP, 73 K, 11 BB), the nation’s leader in earned run average, poses a formidable threat at the top of the Union rotation.
Players to Watch
C Zach Leone, Susquehanna (.444, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 67 H, 40 R, 18 2B)
1B Austin Clock, Cortland (.346, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 46 H, 35 R, 17 BB, .997 FLD %)
2B Joe Venturino, Ramapo (.411, 30 RBI ,67 H, 38 R, 27 BB, 21 SB, .497 OBP)
SS Nick Swim, Castleton (.419, 3 HR, 45 RBI, 65 H, 51 R, 17 BB, 12 SB)
SS Joe Ganim, Union (.280, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 33 H, 15 R, 10 SB)
OF Dan Errico, Castleton (.330, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 30 BB, 4 3B, .468 OBP)
OF Fabio Ricci, Cortland (.410, 28 RBI, 55 H, 33 R, 21 BB, 12 SB, .491 OBP)
OF Eric Egan, Union (.341, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 44 H, 30 R, 17 BB, 13 SB)
OF Justin Cassinelli, Susquehanna (.475, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 75 H, 55 R, 20 BB, .539 OBP, 13 SB)
UT Jake Fishman, Union (7-0, 0.31 ERA, 6 CG, 58.0 IP, 73 K, 10 BB; .371 BA, 46 H, 18 BB, .451 OBP)
UT Devin Bell, Frostburg State (.377, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 40 H, 34 R, 10 2B)
SP Seth Lamando, Cortland (8-0, 1 SV, 70.2 IP, 67 K, 5 BB, .193 OBA)
SP Greg Schneider, Frostburg State (6-1, 2.55 ERA, 1 CG, 67.0 IP, 91 K, 17 BB)
SP Sam Spencer, Castleton (7-2, 2.81 ERA, 6 CG, 64.0 IP, 53 K, 11 BB)
SP John Cooley, Susquehanna (4-2, 2.78 ERA, 55.0 IP, 43 K, 18 BB)
SP C.J. Growney, Ramapo (4-0, 2.36 ERA, 42.0 IP, 30 K, 6 BB)
RP Nick Huff, Frostburg State (4-2, 13 SV, 1.76 ERA, 20 APP, 30.2 IP, 21 K)
RP Turner Parry, Cortland (5-2, 5 SV, 1.35 ERA, 33.1 IP, 54 K, 12 BB)
RP Jerry D’Andrea, Ramapo (1-2, 10 SV, 2.08 ERA, 30.1 IP, 31 K, 13 BB)