Today is an interesting day in the Northern Sun Conference. The top 8 teams are all in action against each other in doubleheaders. The teams are battling for position to be among the top 6 teams to make the post season NSIC Tournament and with only 12 games remaining every game is critical.
One thing to keep an eye on is pitching depth. Most of these teams just got done with 4 games this weekend, some with Sunday/Monday series, and they play 4 more this weekend. This is going to force many of these teams to go with their #5/6 starters in these crucial games. These same teams turn around next Wednesday and play each other again in another doubleheader, just reversed in where they play.
Wayne State (18-1) at St. Cloud State (9-7)
The Wayne State Wildcats enter the series in first place and are ranked as high as #12 nationally in the NCBWA poll this week. The Huskies are coming off of a disappointing series where they dropped 3 of 4 to Augustana and fell to 6th place in the standings. St. Cloud State has played 42 games this year, all of them on the road, so this is actually their home opener. Wayne State comes into the series on a 9 game winning streak and holds a slim 1 game lead over Minnesota State, a team they play 4 games against this coming weekend. St. Cloud State leads the all-time series against the Wildcats (4-1) but these teams haven’t faced each other since 1999. St. Cloud State Opens Homestand
Minnesota State (16-2) at Concordia (11-8)
Minnesota State is trying to stay within 1 game of league leader WSC in order to make it that much easier to pass them in the standings when the pair meet this weekend. The team has been idle for a week as they were the lone team with no games this weekend. Their schedule difficulty really picks up now with their remaining 3 series against CU, WSC and SCSU so their goal may need to be more about maintaining a top 6 NCAA regional ranking than winning the Conference. Concordia holds down the #5 spot in the standings but 8 of their remaining games are against top 3 teams. If they can split those games and take the series against Bemidji they should be in good position. You can listen to these 2 games today live (starting at 2pm) here – Listen to Mavericks vs. Golden Bears
Southwest Minnesota State (9-5) at Winona State (15-5)
This series features the leagues #4 team (SMSU) against the #3 team (Winona). Both teams are sitting in pretty good position right now to make the NSIC Tournament so the bigger issue is positioning the NCAA Regional poll for a chance to make the NCAA D2 Tournament. Right now Winona holds the #6 spot and SMSU holds the #7 spot. With 6 teams making the Regional these positions may be critical making this series very important in the eyes of the polls. Winona State holds a decided advantage all time against the Mustangs as the Warriors lead 99-47. That said, the teams split 4 games last year. SMSU Media Release
Upper Iowa (11-9) at Augustana (10-9)
The final big mid-week series features the leagues #7 & #8 teams who are looking to move up. Both the Peacocks and Augies are probably rooting for Wayne State and Minnesota State to sweep their series’ so they can leapfrog teams ahead of them. That said, they have to take care of their own business first. Upper Iowa is actually in pretty good position right now as all 14 games they have remaining are against teams below them in the standings. They are coming off of series splits in their last 6 games against teams ahead of them in the schedule so they can definitely compete. The fact that UIU’s schedule is easier makes these games all the more important to Augustana. The Vikings are coming off of an impressive series against SCSU where they won 3 of 4. Augustana Media Release
Minnesota Crookston (3-21) at Minnesota Duluth (8-12)
Minnesota Crookston has only won 3 games this year but this is a team with some built in disadvantages so the fact that they’ve won games against the likes of SCSU and SMSU this year might be considered progress. Minnesota Duluth has won 4 of their last 5 which includes 3 of 4 last weekend against Bemidji and a game against the conference’s #2 team, Minnesota State. They are definitely getting better pitching of late as they’ve decided to throw their freshman pitchers into the fire and they’ve responded pretty well. One of them, Anders Engberg, was just named NSIC Pitcher of the Week. Golden Eagles Schedule 5 This Week
Bemidji State (5-18) at Mary (4-8)
The #10 & #11 teams in the standings square off for a chance to gain some measure of momentum toward finishing the season strong. Bemidji is coming off of losing 3 of 4 to Duluth. Mary also lost 3 of 4 this weekend but the fact that they won a game against the league’s #3 team (Winona) was encouraging. These teams have split their previous 6 meetings. Bemidji Media Release
Northern State (1-15) is scheduled to play a non-conference doubleheader against Minnesota Morris today.