|Seth Lamando was 1-0 in two starts as the Cortland Red Dragons won their first National Championship in their 13th appearance in 2015.
Cortland athletics file photo
By Jim Dixon
The season started almost four months ago and we are down to the final eight teams. On Friday D3baseball.com will be there to record the action in words and pictures.
The field features both experience in Appleton and some who will be experiencing the trip for the first time. Cortland and UW-La Crosse played in the final series and are back but only one will advance to the final best of three series as they fall into the first bracket.
What we might see is the defending National Champions playing the previous years winner if both Cortland and UW-Whitewater win their respective brackets.
Emory and Trinity (Texas) were also in the 2015 field and have returned for another shot at their first National Championship.
Keystone is making just its second trip to the championship round and they made quite a sensation in 2011, just missing the Championship game to Marietta, the eventual National Champion that year. The D-III World Series has welcomed a newcommer to the final round ever since the NCAA started awarding bids to conference winners. This year it is St. John Fisher and La Roche who are making the trip for the first time.
The championship format introduced in 2015 was a success as the winner of two pools face each other in a best-of-three series. Nobody is ever satisfied and last year when two teams played each other again, fans wanted to know why no crossover games. Expect this format to stick and as the number of D-III baseball teams grow, one day you could see super-regionals as a step inbetween the regional and championship rounds.
Favorite: Cortland State
Until you dethrone the Red Dragons, Cortland is still king. Not only is Cortland the defending National Champion but they have been the top ranked team for all but four weeks in the middle of the season. They say it is defense that wins championships and Cortland comes in with the 11th best defense in the nation. They say it is good pitching that stops good hitting (Cortland ranks 15th in ERA) and visa-versa (Cortland has a top 20 scoring offense). It is not just a well balanced team but Cortland's 14 D-III World Series appearances is as many as the rest of the field combined and has more appearances in the the last five years (4) than any team in the field.
Most likely to disappoint: UW-La Crosse
If we are riding the Cortland bandwagon to the finals, it would mean that the UW-La Crosse Eagles will be heading home much earlier than they intend. There are plenty of reasons that we can see the Eagles holding Walnut and Bronze on Tuesday but their draw opens with a team that was ranked number one for four weeks and potentially will face the team ranked in the top spot the rest of the year.
Dark Horse: Keystone
Keystone had a magical run in 2011, the only other time the Giants were in the final eight and is still under the same management that has just gotten better with time. Start with a bracket with two rookie teams and you have a possibility of lightning striking twice.
Cinderella: La Roche
The Red Hawks had to battle out of the elimination round in both their conference and regional tounaments, going 7-for-7 in elimination games. Will we see a team that has earned a toughness from adversity or one does not have enough gas in the tank. At D3baseball.com, we see that it is the former than the latter that has us looking at La Roche surprising the field and making it to the midnight hour.
The rest of the field
Emory is back again but with one critical difference. This year they swept through the Mount Berry Regional, keeping their pitching staff as fresh as the previous two appearances in the D-III World Series. Emory will have to start the series facing the Defending National Champions but the Eagles have not shied away from tough competition. Head coach Mike Twardoski's schedule this year was the second toughest in all of D-III.
St. John Fisher is making their first ever appearance in the D-III World Series. They came into the Moosic Regional as the second seed and with wins over Kean, UMass-Boston, and Salve Regina shook off the loss in the Empire 8 tournament. The Cardinals enter the D-III World Series with a top 40 offense and the second best ERA among the teams (second to Emory) at Appleton this weekend.
Last year was a breakout year for Trinity (Texas) as they made their first trip to Appleton despite being a regular in the west regionals for a decade. This year the team has the experience of having been here before. The Tigers also will see some familiar teams in their bracket. Both Emory and UW-La Crosse are there with a 1-1 record in 2015 against both teams.
Two national championships, five previous appearances in the D-III World Series would be enough for most teams but UW-Whitewater is not most teams. A culture of winning has the athletic department expecting success in every sport and baseball is no exception. The Warhawks are two WIAC teams that are playing this weekend and it surprises nobody that UW-Whitewater has joined UW-La Crosse in what could turn into a back yard brawl if both teams make our of their respective brackets.
Meet the teams
Players to watch
C Drew Butler, Trinity (Texas) (.360, 41 R, 7 HR, 46 RBI)
1B Justin Anderson, UW-La Crosse (.464, 50 R, 18 2B, 11 HR, 79 RBI)
1B Louis Reyes, Keystone (.390, 46 R, 14 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 36 RBI, 12 SB)
1B Austin Clock, Cortland (.353, 40 R, 4 HR, 39 RBI, 20 BB, .997 FLD %)
2B Dylan Eisner, Emory (.374, 36 R, 7 2B, 28 RBI, 28 BB, 14 SB)
SS Mike Roman, St. John Fisher (.349, 43 R, 19 2B, 28 RBI, 16 BB)
3B Cal Aldridge, UW-Whitewater (.402, 38 R, 43 RBI, .476 OBP)
3B David Lemley, La Roche (.345, 39 R, 13 2B, 11 HR, 51RBI, .648 SLG)
OF Fabio Ricci, Cortland (.396, 39R, 31 RBI, 23 BB, 12 SB, .478 OBP)
OF Nate Roethel, St. John Fisher (.387, 21 R, 16 2B, 30 RBI, 11 BB, 15 K)
OF Taylor Kohlwey, UW-La Crosse (.492, 74R, 21 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 11 SB)
OF Luis Navedo, La Roche (.421, 47 R, 19 2B, 9 HR, 40 RBI, .525 OBP, .779 SLG)
OF Jeremy Wolf, Trinity (Texas) (.423, 56 R, 28 2B, 11 HR, 64vRBI)
DH Brian Hernandez, Emory (.370, 29 R, 9 2B, 4 HR, 49 RBI, 11 SB)
Pitchers to watch
SP Tanner Wilt, La Roche (8-2, 1.17 ERA, 4 CG, 76.2 IP, 97 K, 19 BB, .161 OBA)
SP Hans Hansen, Emory (9-1, 1.15 ERA, 78.1 IP, 9 BB, 45 K)
SP Michael Walker, Trinity (Texas) (9-0, 2.93 ERA, 67.2 IP, 38 K, 16 BB, .267 OBA)
SP Caleb Boushley, UW-La Crosse (10-0, 1.74 ERA, 4 CG, 78bK, 17 BB)
SP Stephen Lewis, St. John Fisher (7-0, 1.86 ERA, 58.0 IP, 8 BB, 40 K)
SP Lake Bachar, UW-Whitewater (8-5, 2.66 ERA, 84.2 IP, 94 K, 18 BB)
SP Felix Baez, Keystone (9-2, 2.94 ERA, 88.2 IP, 112 K, .213 OBA)
SP Seth Lamando, Cortland (9-0, 1 SV, 79.0 IP, 81 K, 8 BB, .192 OBA)
RP Heath Renz, UW-Whitewater (6-0, 2.29 ERA, 51.0 IP, 39 K, 8 BB)
RP Turner Parry, Cortland (5-2, 5 SV, 1.75 ERA, 36.0 IP, 56 K, 13 BB)
RP Kyle Monk, Emory (4-3, 11 SV, 1.24 ERA, 43.2 IP, 39 K)