We are now just 20 days away from the start of the Northern Sun Conference College Baseball Tournament. Most of the teams in the Conference have either 12 or 16 games remaining in order to stake their claim to one of the top 6 spots in order to make post-season play.
In reality there are 8 teams as the bottom 5 teams (Mary, Duluth, Bemidji, Crookston and Northern State) are not in positions to make a run. Wayne State and Minnesota State look to be in a strong position to grab 2 of the top 6 spots but the other 6 teams are fighting it out for both the NSIC standings and NCAA Regional rankings.
This weekend features 2 series where these top 8 teams are playing each other, 3 series where a top team is playing a bottom 5 team and 1 series of bottom 5 teams.
Southwest Minnesota State (7-3) at Upper Iowa University (9-7)
In the biggest series of the weekend, the Conference’s #4 Mustangs faces the #6 Peacocks. SMSU has played one of the easiest schedules all season so it will be interesting to gauge how good they really are against a better team. The Peacocks have 10 games remaining against bottom 5 teams so if they can win this series they should be in great shape to finish in the Top 6.
St. Cloud State (8-4) at Augustana (7-8)
This series has already been pushed back a day to a Sunday/Monday series with the threat of rain (SCSU – Augie Schedule Change). These games are critical for St. Cloud State. They need to create space between themselves and the teams below them as their last 8 games are against the top 2 teams in the Conference (Wayne & MSU-M). Augustana has been battling some injuries to key hitters in their lineup. The Vikings have been a surprise team so far this year and this 7th place team faces the #5, #6 & #4 teams in the next week and a half which will determine whether they make the playoffs.
Concordia (7-8) at Minnesota Crookston (3-17)
Preview – Golden Bear – Golden Eagle Preview
This series should be Golden anyway. Concordia has a tough schedule after this weekend so sweeping this series is critical for their chances to move up in the standings. Of course playing tougher opponents does give them the chance to pass them if the can win each series. The Crookston Golden Eagles have only won 3 games in the Conference but 2 of them were against SCSU and SMSU so they certainly have the ability to win a game if Concordia isn’t playing solid baseball.
Winona State (12-4) at Mary (3-5)
These games have been pushed to Sunday/Monday (Mary Home Opener Pushed Back). Winona State is the superior team and these should be their easiest games remaining so they’d better have designs on winning them all. Mary was close to winning a couple games against 2nd place team Minnesota State until the Mavericks staged late inning rallies so the Marauders can certainly take 1-2 of these.
Wayne State (14-1) at Northern State (1-11)
This series is the 3rd to have it’s games adjusted to Sunday/Monday in order to avoid expected weather issues on Saturday (Baseball Schedule Adjusted). Wayne State is #1 – Northern State is #13. The biggest issue for Wayne State is how much to hold back for their Wednesday doubleheader against St. Cloud State and their huge showdown next weekend against Minnesota State. The fact that these games were pushed back a day may impact their pitching rotation for those games.
Minnesota Duluth (5-11) at Bemidji State (4-15)
These 2 Northern Minnesota teams had great success in the past month on the ice as both teams qualified for the NCAA Division 1 college hockey tournament. That said, neither one of them has had the type of season on the diamond that they hoped for. The Bulldogs started the year strong and then had a brutal stretch in the middle, especially in regards to pitching issues. Lately, they seem to have had some much better pitching performances as the coaching staff has found some freshman like Anders Engberg and Ben Jungers who have started to make strides. Bemidji State has had some decent series like a non-conference doubleheader sweep of Minnesota State early in the season and a recent split of 4 games with Upper Iowa. They have had one of the tougher NSIC schedules – in fact the games against Duluth will be the first time they’ve played another bottom 5 team.
Minnesota State – Idle