|The fifth consecutive trip to the regionals was finally the charm for Concordia-Chicago.
Concordia-Chicago athletics photo by CJ Sauer
|Roanoke will be one of a number of new teams to play in Appleton. In fact, no player on any of the eight teams has ever played in the D-III World Series.
Roanoke athletics file photo
By Jim Dixon
When the D3baseball.com staff rolls into Appleton to watch fielding practice and talk to the coaches on Thursday, there will be a lot of new faces as no player in the 2017 D-III World Series has been here before. Oswego State and Roanoke earned their first appearance on Sunday with Concordia-Chicago and Washington & Jefferson punching their inaugural tickets on Monday. North Central was the first to clinch a spot but their last trip to the finals was 30 years ago, so long in the past that none of their players were even born when the Cards were last in the title series.
Cal Lutheran will also be new to the Appleton scene. The Kingsmen were last in the D-III World Series in 1999, the final year the championship was played in Salem, Va.
While the bulk of the field will be asking for directions to the stadium from the Paper Valley Hotel, there are some that have made the trip to Appleton before. Wheaton (Mass.) is making their third and Mass-Boston is making their second trip.
The one surprise is that, with one exception, the field has come out of the region that matched their regional. The NCAA shuffled teams around and at the end of the regional round, a New England team won the New England Regional, a New York team won the New York Regional etc. The only exception is the Mid-Atlantic where Wheaton (Mass.) defeated Shenandoah for the regional crown. Although a hotbed in D-III nation, a Mid-Atlantic team has not won its regional in the last four years, (although teams from the region have appeared in Appleton in that span).
One thing we have known for more than a month was that there will not be a repeat champion this year. Trinity (Texas) went from the most experienced team to one of the least and when they bowed out of the SCAC tournament, their playoff chances evaporated faster then a puddle in the Texas sun.
The championship format introduced in 2015 has proven to be a winning formula but the brackets were set ahead of time. This resulted with one bracket with four teams ranked 1, 3, 4, and 6 and no team in the Top 10 in the other bracket in 2016. This year they are seeding the brackets with the top seeds in different brackets.
Favorite: Oswego State
Oswego State is the only team in the Top 10 that survived the regional round and we could be seeing another dominant string by a different New York Region team. Just like Cortland supplanted Ithaca 25 years ago, we might look back on this year in a couple decades with the same dominance that conference mate Cortland put together. The Lakers bring in a pair of dominating pitchers with the leadership and bat of Eric Hamilton. This is enough for us to be seeing green and yellow when walnut and bronze is handed out.
Most likely to disappoint: Wheaton (Mass.)
Most of the teams entering the D-III World Series have not won a game as three are here for the first time and Mass-Boston and North Central are both 0-2 in their previous trips to the championship series. Three teams are guaranteed to get their first win so our pick to disappoint is a team that has had some success in the past. This is Wheaton (Mass.). The Lyons earned a second place finish in both times they made the DIII World Series and it was not so long that the coaching staff and their fans do not remember the good times. Even though they have more experience than the majority of their competition in Appleton, we do not see Wheaton holding the big trophy at the end of the series.
Dark Horse: North Central (Ill.)
The CCIW has had a down year and for the early part of the season it looked like Illinois Wesleyan was poised to be not only the best team in the conference, but the top seed in the regional. The Titans were anything but in the last half of the season and the CCIW crown went to the steady North Central Cardinals. This approach worked to get a ticket to the regional and now to the DIII World Series.
Early Sunday afternoon it looked like the North Central Cardinals would be our Cinderella pick but that all changed once the Roanoke Maroons punched their ticket to the D-III World Series. Roanoke needed a tiebreaker just to get the final ODAC bid and after losing their opener, won four elimination games to reach the regionals. Coach Matt McGwire needs to contact Illinois Wesleyan's Dennis Martel who took his team from middle of the pack to national champions in 2010 for his recipe for success. The road to a National Championship is hard enough but our cinderella opens with the favorite to win it all.
The rest of the field
Mass-Boston should have a better time then the 2010 team that finished 0-2. When you make your first trip, there are a lot of things going on and it has taken its toll on a lot of good teams. The coaching staff has been here before and all the hoopla will not infect them or the team like 2010. We expect the Beacons to keep their winning going.
Washington & Jefferson were the last of the eight teams to earn their pass to this upcoming final series. Long win streaks, shutouts and a special kind of grit has them thinking of something more than a regional championship. The Presidents will have to win on a field other than their own after winning their conference and the regional title in the familiar confines of Ross Memorial Park.
Cal Lutheran is a team to watch. They came out of a tough regional undefeated and if tradition holds, their fan base of parents and students, all coming from afar will form a core of enthusiastic cheerleaders. If experience is part of the winning formula the Kingsmen have it in spades. Although they have not made a World Series this century, their experiences in the regional round closely match what they will face over the Memorial Day weekend.
Concordia-Chicago have been waiting for this moment for the last six years. Close misses, quick exits are just a memory now that they get to play on the biggest stage Division III baseball has to offer. Along with North Central, they have the shortest trip and should hope to bring a large fan base. The first step for the Cougars is to add to their 7-0 record since NACC regular season play ended as they open the Series with Washington & Jefferson.
Meet the teams
Players to watch
C Kevin Coppin, Concordia-Chicago (.295, 28 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 41 RBI, .995 FLD%)
1B Will Decker, Roanoke (.310, 38R, 7 2B, 2 HR, 43 RBI, .487 SLG)
1B Nick Sotiros, North Central (Ill) (.347, 40 R, 18 2B, 7 HR, 60 RBI, .595 SLG)
2B Max Weinstein, Cal Lutheran (.382, 35 R, 12 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI, .529 SLG)
SS Bryan Vanduser, Concordia-Chicago (.414, 55 R, 12 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .586 SLG)
SS Josh LaJoie, Wheaton (Mass.) (.341, 43 R, 16 2B, 24 RBI, 7 SB, .456 SLG)
3B Kyle Boudrias, Mass-Boston (.386, 29 R, 12 2B, 6 HR, 46 RBI, .587 SLG)
3B Eric Hamilton, Oswego State (.434, 40 R, 20 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, .635 SLG)
OF Michael Mateja, North Central (.414, 59 R, 13 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI, .634 SLG)
OF Gabe Gunter, Cal Lutheran (.350, 33 R, 17 2B, 5 HR, 39 RBI, .550 SLG)
OF Sam Watson, Roanoke (.337, 19 R, 6 2B, 21 RBI, Regional MVP)
OF Nick Vento W&J (.433, 47 R, 17 2B, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 13 SB)
OF Zach Goodwin-Boyd, Wheaton (Mass.) (.343, 30 R, 15 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, .621 SLG)
DH Mike Dellicarri, Oswego State (.352, 31 R, 13 2B, 7 HR, 33 RBI, .636 SLG)
Pitchers to watch
SP John Ruhlman, Roanoke (6-6, 4.17 ERA, 1 SV, 2 CG, 60K)
SP Evan Blunk, North Central (Ill.) (6-2, 3.17 ERA, 2 CG, 33K, .255 opp. avg.)
SP Marshall Pautsch, Cal Lutheran (9-2, 3.19 ERA, 3 CG, 93 K, .275)
SP Joey Rogers, Mass-Boston (4-0, 3.12 ERA, 1 CG, 29K, .227)
SP Mike Bruemmel, Wheaton (Mass.) (5-2, 2.91 ERA, 1 CG, 44 K, .221)
SP Riley Groves, W&J (10-2, 2.03 ERA, 4 CG, 61 K, .223)
SP Tim Cronin, Oswego State (8-0, 2.37 ERA, 6 CG, 36 K, .266)
SP Keaton Conner, Concordia-Chicago (6-3, 3.31 ERA, 65.1 IP, 29 BB, 58K, .217)
RP Joe McGuire, Mass-Boston (1-1, 1.47 ERA, 17 app, 18 K, .252 )
RP Will Bowser, W&J (1-1, 1.35 ERA, 1 Sv, 18 app, 35 K, .169)
RP Mike Fomella, Concordia-Chicago (6-1, 3.58 ERA, 7 Sv, 54 K, Regional MVP)