Earning home-field advantage in the NCAA Division III Baseball Regional for the first time since the 2010 season, Linfield (33-7) begins its national championship title defense in earnest Wednesday at Roy Helser Field in McMinnville. The double-elimination tournament concludes Saturday, when the lone team standing claims a trip to the NCAA Finals.
The six-team McMinnville Regional field also includes Cal Lutheran (34-8), Trinity (Texas) (33-8), the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (29-11), Illinois Wesleyan (24-18) and LeTourneau (31-13). Five clubs – Linfield, Cal Lutheran, Trinity, UW-Stevens Point and Illinois Wesleyan – are making at least second consecutive playoff appearance, while LeTourneau reached the postseason for the first time in program history.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The regional tournament champion advances to compete in the eight-team NCAA Division III Baseball Championship finals, scheduled for May 23-27 at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. The event is jointly hosted by Lawrence University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.
THE FIRST ROUND
Top-seeded Linfield and sixth-seeded LeTourneau square off in the first game of the tournament Wednesday at noon Pacific Daylight Time. Cal Lutheran and Illinois Wesleyan battle in the 2-versus-5 matchup at 3:30 p.m., while No. 3 Trinity and No. 4 UW-Stevens Point cap off the first day of competition beginning at 7 p.m.
WEST REGIONAL SCHEDULE
(Seeding in parentheses, all times Pacific)
Wednesday, May 14
Game 1: (1) Linfield vs. (6) LeTourneau, Noon
Game 2: (2) Cal Lutheran vs. (5) Illinois Wesleyan, 3:30 p.m.
Game 3: (3) Trinity vs. (4) UW-Stevens Point, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 15
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, Noon
Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3, 3:30 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.
If Four Teams Remain After Game 6:
Friday, May 16
Game 7: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, noon
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 6, 3:30 p.m.
Game 9: Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 17
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9, Noon
Game 11 if necessary, 3:30 p.m.
If five teams remain after Game 6:
Friday, May 16
Game 7: Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7
If two teams after Game 9:
Saturday, May 17
Game 10: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9, Noon
Game 11 if necessary
If three teams remain after Game 9:
Saturday, May 17
Game 10: Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 9, Noon
Game 11: Winner 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 3:30 p.m.
All tournament games feature video streaming and live stats, courtesy of the Linfield Sports Information department.
Linfield has not faced any of its potential regional opponents this season. As part of its national championship run during the 2013 season, the Wildcats went won two of three games against Trinity in the Austin Regional tournament and topped UW-Stevens Point 5-3 at the NCAA Finals. Linfield's all-time records against the McMinnville Regional teams include: 3-0 against Cal Lutheran, 3-1 versus Trinity, 1-1 against UW-Stevens Point and 1-1 versus Illinois Wesleyan.
Linfield continues to hold down the No. 1 spot in the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball national poll. The Wildcats are listed second on the D3baseball.com Top 25. Trinity (4 ABCA/8 D3baseball) and Cal Lutheran (5/10) are ranked in the Top 10 in both polls, with UW-Stevens Point (19/16) also ranking among the Top 25 programs. Illinois Wesleyan received votes in the D3baseball poll, while LeTourneau garnered a few points in the ABCA rankings list.
Linfield (Ore.): The defending national champion Wildcats (33-7) topped the Northwest Conference for the third time in four years to earn a second straight trip to the regional tournament. Seventh-year head coach Scott Brosius (233-79) manages an experienced roster that includes 10 seniors. Linfield can easily count defense as one of its strengths; the pitching staff boasts a 2.16 ERA and the team is flirting with the Division III single-season record for fielding percentage at .976. NWC Pitcher of the Year Aaron Thomassen headlines a stellar rotation that includes reigning National Pitcher of the Year Chris Haddeland and steady veteran Zach Brandon, a senior second team all-NWC selection pitching in his third regional tournament. All three have registered sub-2.00 ERAs, combining for a 26-3 record and 166 strikeouts. Senior Zach Manley and junior Joseph Stevick are the team's top relievers, while sophomore Cody Walker has recorded a team-high three saves. NWC Player of the Year and senior outfielder Nick Fisher (.342) is key to offensive success, hitting .342 on the year with 35 RBIs and a team-high 12 stolen bases. Senior first baseman Clayton Truex leads the Wildcats with a .355 average and 41 RBIs, while returning All-American catcher Jake Wylie came back from an early season injury to bat .347 with eight home runs. Kramer Lindell and leadoff man Corey VanDomelen also hit better than .300 and enjoyed 14-game hitting streaks earlier this year.
Cal Lutheran (Calif.): Capturing the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the second straight season, the Kingsmen (34-8) ride a 12-game winning streak into the regional playoffs. Head coach Marty Slimak has led Cal Lutheran to 20 consecutive winning seasons en route to becoming the winningest coach in Kingsmen athletics history. Cal Lutheran is an offensive juggernaut, ranking in the top five nationally for hits (505), doubles (105), on-base percentage (.425) and runs scored (368). Collectively, the Kingsmen hit .343 while outscoring their opponents 368-172 on the year. Senior returning All-American Jake Peterson does it all for the Kingsmen, hitting .444 with 27 RBIs and 17 doubles while also posting an 8-2 record on the mound with four complete games, 3.95 ERA and team-high 69 strikeouts. Senior infielder Nicho DellaValle also hit better than .400, batting at a .406 clip with 24 RBIs. First baseman Colin Crowl is the run-producing leader (45) on a team that features 10 players with 20 or more RBIs. First team all-SCIAC pick Aaron Roth serves as the team's go-to closer with 11 saves – second most among Division III pitchers – to go along with four victories and a 1.57 ERA in 22 appearances. Defensively, the Kingsmen own a .972 fielding average, 3.49 ERA and have turned a whopping 89 double plays.
Trinity (Texas): Under head coach Tim Scannell, who has led the Tigers to more than 500 victories in 16 seasons, the Tigers (33-8) secured their fourth consecutive playoff appearance by winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament in three games. SCAC Pitcher of the Year Zach Speer boasts a 1.79 ERA and 8-1 win-loss record with a team-high 59 strikeouts. Making 10 appearances each, Ryan Gray (2.11) and Michael Walker (2.54) have also registered sub-3.00 averages. Trinity's outfield packs a punch at the plate, with sophomore Jeremy Wolf (.349), senior cleanup hitter Pat Hirschberg (.348) and sophomore Austin Singer (.328) combining for 98 RBIs. Wolf enters the regional on a 12-game hitting streak and has totaled 22 extra-base hits, while Hirschberg has smacked a team-high seven home runs on the year. Sophomore Drew Butler has driven in 27 runs on a .378 average in 29 starts, primarily as the team's designated hitter. The Tigers are adept at stealing bases with 80 total swiped bags on the year, including 28 by shortstop and leadoff man Conner Moore. Trinity's defense is among the nation's best; the Tigers own a .968 fielding percentage, have turned 47 double plays and rank in the top 10 nationally for ERA (2.35) and hits allowed per nine innings (7.25).
UW-Stevens Point (Wis.): The Pointers (29-11) bowed out in the semifinals of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, but earned one of the precious few “Pool C” invitations to the postseason in large part due to its strength of schedule, which ranks third among Division III programs. UW-Stevens Point's most productive hitters are junior third baseman Kyle McHugh and sophomore first baseman Brandon Kranz. McHugh's 57 RBIs and 23 doubles both rank among the top five national leaders this season, while Kranz hit a team-high .418 with 39 RBIs. Junior outfielder Bobby Gregorich has contributed 26 RBIs as part of a .342 average. The Pointers' starting rotation includes two former WIAC Pitchers of the Year – JP Feyereisen and Cam Seidl – and junior Luke Watson, who leads the starters with a 2.03 ERA, 7-1 record and 50 strikeouts. Head coach Pat Bloom, a former pitcher for UW-Stevens Point, has led the Pointers to five Finals appearances in 11 seasons at the helm of his alma mater, including back-to-back trips in 2006 and 2007, and takes UW-Stevens Point outside the state of Wisconsin for a regional tournament for the first time since the 2008 postseason.
Illinois Wesleyan (Ill.): The Titans (24-18) earned their fifth consecutive trip to the postseason, a streak that dates back to the team's 2010 national championship run. Head Coach Dennis Martel, now in his 27th year at Illinois Wesleyan, is the program's all-time winningest coach (711-435-3) and led the Titans to both the regular season and tournament titles in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin this season. First team all-CCIW outfielder Bobby Czarnowski drives the offense with a .366 batting average and 23 extra-base hits. He and Jon Frericks supply the power, combining for half of IWU's 24 home runs this year. Adam Glogovsky ranked second on IWU's club with a .347 average, while leadoff designated hitter Tim Coonan batted .333 with a team-high 13 stolen bases. Jeff Johnson, Robert Ramano and Matt Hart constitute the starting rotation and have combined for a 15-6 win-loss record. Junior reliever Dan Truesdale has registered a team-low 1.99 ERA in 20 appearances including a pair of saves, while John Munyon has come in for a team-high five saves while recording a 3.10 ERA. As a team, the Titans hit .288 while allowing the opposition to swing the bat at a .270 clip.
LeTourneau (Texas):After twice upsetting top-seeded and host Concordia (Texas) in the American Southwest Conference tournament, including a 6-4 victory in the championship game, the YellowJackets (32-13) continue their record-breaking season with a program-first berth in the NCAA playoffs. Led by ace and ASC Tournament MVP Curt Copeland, all three of LeTourneau's starters have won six or more contests and thrown at least two completes games, while the pitching staff overall owns a 3.41 ERA. Copeland (7-2, 3.22 ERA) holds the slight edge in strikeouts (53) but Cody Whitley (6-2, 51 K) boasts the lowest ERA at 1.83 and Justin Jenkins (8-3, 4.58 ERA) has gone the distance four times. First baseman Garrett Methvin paces the YellowJacket offense from the three-hole spot of the lineup, batting .392 with a team-high 33 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits. Perhaps most impressively, Methvin, a first-team all-ASC pick, has struck out just four times on the year. Leadoff man Bryce Griffin enjoyed a 21-game hitting streak en route to a .353 season average, while brothers Chris (senior) and Ryan (junior) Bertram also hit better than .300 through the end of the ASC tournament. LeTourneau enters the postseason having won eight of its past nine games under seventh-year manager Robin Harriss, who heads the ASC Coaching Staff of the Year.