Video: Travel and Practice Days
Linfield seeks to become the first team in school history to win back-to-back national titles, which will be no easy task against a talented and experienced field of eight at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships, which begin Friday and run through Tuesday at the Neurosciences Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.
The championship contenders include four former national champions – Linfield (2013), Southern Maine (1991 and 1997), St. Thomas (2001 and 2009) and UW-Whitewater (2005) – and just one newcomer, Baldwin Wallace. SUNY-Cortland (12 appearances), Salisbury (four) and Emory (four) are three other programs with considerable NCAA Finals experience. Six clubs have 35 or more victories on the year (Whitewater leads the way with 40) and all battled through tough regional tournaments to earn the right to compete for a national title.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The Division III national champion brings home a walnut and bronze trophy in the same style awarded to every NCAA champion, regardless of division. Regional champion mini trophies are awarded to the 30-person travel party after each team is eliminated, and members of the winning team receive national championship mini trophies.
THE FIRST ROUND
Unlike in the regional tournaments, teams are not seeded for the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships, and matchups are predetermined based on region. Linfield and St. Thomas square off in the first game of the finals Friday at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time.
Baldwin Wallace and Emory kick off the afternoon with a 1:15 p.m. matchup. First pitch for the SUNY-Cortland and Salisbury contest is set for 4:30 p.m., and Southern Maine and UW-Whitewater wrap up the first day of competition beginning at 7:45 p.m.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
(Seeding in parentheses, all times Central)
Friday, May 23
Game 1: Linfield vs. St. Thomas (Minn.), 10 a.m.
Game 2: Baldwin Wallace vs. Emory, 1:15 p.m.
Game 3: SUNY-Cortland vs. Salisbury, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: Southern Maine vs. UW-Whitewater, 7:45 p.m.
Saturday, May 24
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 10 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1:15 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:45 p.m.
Sunday, May 25
Game 9: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7, noon
Game 10: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 3:30 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
Monday, May 26
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, noon
Game 13: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 11, 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 27
Game 14: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 13, 11 a.m.
*Game 15: Winner Game 14 vs. Loser Game 14, 2:30 p.m.
TRAVEL, PRACTICE AND FESTIVITIES
Linfield traveled Wednesday, flying directly into Appleton and arriving at the hotel at approximately 4 p.m. The Wildcats take batting practice Thursday from 8:30-9:20 local time at Appleton Legion – Don Hawkins Field before heading to the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium for defensive drills and the official team photo.
While some Wildcats trekked to Green Bay to visit Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, other stayed in Appleton to rest and study during the afternoon hours.
A celebration banquet is scheduled for Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. inside the team hotel.
Temperatures are expected to range from lows in the low 50s to highs in the mid 70s through the weekend. Monday and Tuesday may bring a bit higher temperatures (80) and a chance of rain and thunderstorms.
VIDEO BROADCAST & LIVE STATS
All NCAA tournament games feature a live video stream and live stats, provided by the NCAA and accessible through the Interactive Bracket.
Linfield has not faced any of its potential finals opponents this season. All-time, Linfield is 1-1 against SUNY-Cortland, 2-0 against Southern Maine and 1-0 against UW-Whitewater. All run-ins have occurred during the postseason.
The Wildcats twice defeated Southern Maine during their national championship run, including a 4-1 victory in the final game. In 2010, Linfield blasted SUNY-Cortland 25-11 before the Red Dragons exacted revenge on the Wildcats, 9-7, three days later to advance to the national championship game. Making their first appearance at the Finals in 2008, the Wildcats topped UW-Whitewater 5-1 in an opening-round game.
Seven of the eight teams are included in both the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball and D3baseball.com Top 25. Linfield is ranked first in the coaches' poll and second in the D3baseball rankings list. UW-Whitewater holds the third spot in both polls, Salisbury ranks sixth in both and 8/7 SUNY-Cortland rounds out the Top 10 for both organizations.
Also included in the Top 25 are 11/6 St. Thomas, 15/12 Southern Main and 30/22 Emory. Baldwin Wallace received one vote in the most recent D3baseball.com poll.
Linfield (Ore.):Playing on their home field, the defending national champion Wildcats (37-7) made it through the McMinnville Regional undefeated, winning four games by a combined score of 12-5. This came after Linfield topped the Northwest Conference for the third time in four years to earn a second straight trip to the playoffs. Seventh-year head coach Scott Brosius (237-79) manages an experienced roster that includes 10 seniors. Linfield can easily count defense as one of its strengths; the pitching staff boasts a 2.03 ERA and the team is flirted with the Division III single-season record for fielding percentage at .975. All-West Region Pitcher of the Year and reigning National Pitcher of the Year Chris Haddeland headlines a stellar rotation that includes NWC Pitcher of the Year Aaron Thomassen and steady veteran Zach Brandon, a senior second team all-NWC selection with four postseason starts. All three have registered sub-2.00 ERAs (Haddeland at 0.97) and have combined for a 29-3 record and 181 strikeouts. Senior Zach Manley and junior Joseph Stevick are the team's top relievers, while sophomore Cody Walker has recorded a team-high four saves. NWC Player of the Year and senior outfielder Nick Fisher is key to offensive success, hitting .337 on the year with 37 RBIs and a team-high 12 stolen bases. Returning All-American catcher Jake Wylie came back from an early season injury to bat .348 with eight home runs while senior first baseman Clayton Truex leads the Wildcats with 43 RBIs to go along with a .347 average and 41 RBIs. Kramer Lindell and leadoff man Corey VanDomelen also hit better than .300 and enjoyed 14-game hitting streaks earlier this year.
St. Thomas (Minn.): Playing without injured Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Tyler Peterson, the Tommies (37-7) still rolled through the Moline, Ill. (Central) Regional 4-0 to advance to their fifth Finals appearance of the last 16 years. St. Thomas rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the championship game to defeat Rose-Hulman 9-3. Over four games, St. Thomas smacked 56 hits and scored 38 runs, showing little sign of offensive struggles without Peterson, who led the team with a .471 average, 50 RBIs and a .794 slugging percentage. The Tommies have two other hitters batting above .400: senior left fielder Tim Kuzniar brings a .434 average and 44 RBIs into the national tournament while senior center fielder Ben Podobinski is hitting .430 with a team-high nine triples. Podobinski is also adept at stealing bases – he leads the team with 27 on the year. The regional tournament's most outstanding player, senior catcher J.D. Dorgan, hit .323 on the year and drove in 50 runs, including nine in the regional. Pitching wise, sophomore lefty Eric Veglahn (1.78 ERA) and junior right-hander Collin Wendinger (2.73 ERA) registered perfect 8-0 records through the end of the regional tournament. Steve Maher carries a 5.22 ERA, but the former MIAC Pitcher of the Year is a dangerous threat in the middle of the rotation. Senior Tommy Danczyk owns a 4-1 record, team-high 10 saves and 2.20 ERA. As a team, the Tommies swing the bats well; their .344 average ranks fifth among Division III programs this year. St. Thomas alum and former assistant coach Chris Olean has led the Tommies to the MIAC championship in each of his five seasons as manager.
Baldwin Wallace (Ohio): Many are calling the Yellow Jackets' first Finals appearance part of a Cinderella season, but fourth-year head coach Brian Harrison (100-61) and his team hope to extend a late-season hot streak into a lengthy stay in Appleton. Baldwin Wallace earned the fourth and final spot in the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament, where they finished as runner-up to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA playoffs. Playing in the Moosic, Pa. (Mid-Atlantic) Regional championship game, the Yellow Jackets (29-18) came back from a 6-1 deficit after two innings to top Wesleyan (Conn.) 9-7. Junior right-hander Cory Waite leads the starting rotation with a 7-2 record and 3.09 ERA, while Alex Albright has rang up a team-high 41 strikeouts to go along with a 5-2 record and 4.12 ERA. With eight saves in 24 appearances and 33.0 innings pitched, Brandon Cichocki serves as closer and carries a team-low 2.45 ERA into the NCAA Finals. Offensively, the Yellow Jackets have compiled a .327 average with 542 hits – fifth most among Division III squads – including 107 doubles (ninth). Four all-OAC honorees have combined for a .379 average with 55 doubles, nine triples, 169 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. Junior first baseman Kyle Chontos leads the team with 49 RBIs, sophomore second baseman and relief pitcher Mark Zimmerman was named the regional tournament's most outstanding player, senior third baseman Brad Gugliotta has driven in 31 runs and sophomore designated hitter Hunter Handell boasts .550 slugging and .449 on-base percentages.
Emory (Ga.): After losing their second game of the Demorest, Ga. (South) Regional, the Eagles (34-11) of the University Athletic Association stayed alive in the loser's bracket, winning four times – including twice against Bridgewater College – to earn their fourth trip to the NCAA Finals. Junior outfielder and designated hitter Brett Lake has already set the program record for runs batted in (64) and leads all Division III players in that category. He also hits a team-high .430 on the year and is 10 hits away from breaking another club record. Senior right fielder Brandon Hannon has crossed the plate 61 times for a team that outscores its opponents 363-193 on the year. Emory's hitters are patient at the plate – leading the nation with 231 walks – but aggressive around the bases, stealing 118 on the year, eight most among Division III programs. Defensively, Hannon, Daniel Iturrey and Wes Peacock comprise one of the best outfields in the country. Senior catcher Jared Welch was named the regional tournament's most outstanding player and has thrown out 19 runners attempting to steal this year. Second team all-South Region pitcher Connor Dillman (9-1, 2.29 ERA) and Rookie of the Year Hans Hansen (8-2, 3.00 ERA) have combined for 117 strikeouts. Dillman has allowed just seven extra-base hits. Freshman righty Kyle Monk has five saves and a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings pitched. Now in his 15th season, head coach Mike Twardoski has compiled a 445-207-1 win-loss record and led the Eagles to the national championship in 2007.
SUNY-Cortland (N.Y.): Under 15th-year head coach Joe Brown, the Red Dragons (35-8) of the State University of New York Athletic Conference are making their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance, the longest active streak of any Division III team and second most of all time. SUNY-Cortland reached the NCAA Finals for the 12th time after winning four straight games at the New York Regional, including a 10-1 victory over Kean in the championship game. The Red Dragons are one of the most defensively sound teams in the country. In addition to topping the nation in fielding percentage at .976 and allowing just 6.99 hits per nine innings – second only to Linfield – SUNY-Cortland's pitching staff boasts a 2.65 ERA and has shut out its opponents 10 times this year. Junior southpaw Brandon McClain, the team's ace with a 1.50 ERA and 10-1 win-loss record, is coming off a two-hit complete game in the regional championship while sophomore right-hander Brandon Serio has nine wins on the year with a 1.82 ERA. The two have combined for 135 strikeouts in 163 innings pitched. Steve Kimmelman (righty) and Steve Komanecky (lefty) are the top closers with three saves apiece. Designated hitter P.J. Rinaldi carries a .397 average with 28 RBIs, 25 runs scored and nine doubles. Senior first baseman Max Rosing and junior third baseman Anthony Iacomini are both hitting better than .340 and have combined for 68 RBIs, 16 doubles, five triples and three home runs. As a team, the Red Dragons hit .334 on the season and have scored 10 or more runs 13 times.
Salisbury (Md.): Champions of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament, the Sea Gulls (37-7) bring a 20-game winning streak into their fourth trip to Appleton and first since 2011. Salisbury is the nation's second most effective team at getting on base, at a .431 clip, and when they do they score in boatloads, totaling 370 runs (eighth) or about 8.5 per game. Led by junior outfielder and All-South Region selection Kyle Hayman, the Sea Gulls boast the fourth highest batting average in Division III at .344. Hayman enjoyed a 26-game hitting streak earlier this season, bats .425 with 73 hits and 28 stolen bases, leading the club in all three categories. Senior first baseman Quinn Griffith is not far behind with a .405 average, 64 hits and 44 RBIs. Six players have driven in 30 or more runs, including left fielder Jordan Gowe, who has registered 12 multiple-RBI games. Juniors Brett Collachi and Dan Fein provide a lethal 1-2 punch on the mound and have pitched 179.4 innings for the Sea Gulls. Collachi, a right-handed and first team All-South Region pick, leads the starting rotation with a 12-1 record, 2.48 ERA and 58 strikeouts. Lefty Dan Fein carries an 8-1 record and 3.71 ERA . Kyle Hanby, a right-handed junior, is the team's go-to closer with nine saves and a 2.19 ERA. He has surrendered 23 hits in 24.2 innings. Due to weather delays at the Marietta, Ohio (Mideast) Regional, the Sea Gulls were the last team to qualify for the Finals, defeating Case Western Reserve 3-2 on Monday. Head coach Doug Fleetwood has amassed a 476-145-6 record at Salisbury, and has guided the Sea Gulls into the postseason in each of his 14 seasons.
Southern Maine (Me.): The 2013 national runner-up Huskies (35-13) exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat Endicott 11-1 in the championship game of the Harwich, Mass. (New England) Regional and earn a return trip to the NCAA Finals. In his 29th season, head coach Ed Flaherty (877-392-4) has led the Huskies to five regional titles over the past decade. Southern Maine's two top pitchers – sophomore Tyler Leavitt and senior Logan Carmann – are both lefties. Leavitt was picked as the Little East Conference Pitcher of the Year and owns a 8-3 record with a 2.85 ERA. Carmann (8-6) leads the starting rotation with a 1.71 ERA and scattered five hits across 8 2/3 innings in the regional championship game. Junior right-handed reliever Andrew Richards, who set a Finals record for innings pitched in 2013, remains the workhorse, throwing a team-high 72.2 innings en route to seven saves on the year. Offensively, second team All-New England Region pick and sophomore shortstop Sam Dexter is batting .393 with a team-high 77 hits, including 12 doubles. Senior outfielder Forrest Chadwick has driven in 50 runs as part of a .339 average, senior designated hitter Chris Bernard has smacked 20 doubles and four home runs for 46 RBIs while LEC Rookie of the Year and second baseman Paul McDonough hits .337 with 31 RBIs on the season. Collectively, the Huskies rank in the top 10 for hits (542), runs (365) and home runs (30) and boast a .469 slugging percentage along with a .322 batting average. The defense has turned 52 double plays – second highest among Division III programs – and tossed three shutouts while compiling a 3.53 ERA.
UW-Whitewater (Wis.): Hosting the regional for the fifth consecutive year, the Warhawks (40-7) staged a late-inning comeback in the Whitewater, Wis. (Midwest) Regional championship game, defeating Adrian 5-4 to earn their seventh NCAA Finals appearance in program history. Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Co-Position Player of the Year and All-Midwest Region Player of the Year Mikole Pierce paces the offense. The junior shortstop does everything well, hitting .446 with 79 hits – including eight doubles, three triples and nine home runs – and 58 RBIs. He gets on base at a .519 clip and has stolen a team-high 16 bases. Jared Fon, Dylan Friend and Michael Gonzales hit better than .360 on the year and have combined for 127 RBIs. The Warhawks have one of the nation's most productive offenses, outscoring their opponents 412-187 on the year and ranking among the top 10 in Division III in more than 10 offensive categories. UW-Whitewater hits .341 as a team (11th) with a .512 slugging percentage (second) that is bolstered by 116 doubles, 26 triples and 37 home runs. Defensively, senior righty Scott Plaza has hurled four complete games and a team-high 71 strikeouts en route to a 7-2 record and 3.04 ERA. Austin Jones (2.19 ERA), Brock Liston (3.22) and Curtis Morgan (3.62) have combined for a 20-3 record. Colin Grove (2.60) shares the team lead with two saves in 17 appearances. Warhawk alum and head coach John Vodenlich (398-128-1) is two wins away from 400 victories in 11 seasons as manager and led UW-Whitewater to the national championship in 2005.
Past NCAA Division III Baseball Champions
D3baseball.com Top 25
ABCA Top 25