Archive for February, 2009

Northern Sun Coach Survey – John Manganaro

Wayne State1

This is my 8th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

John Manganaro has been head coach of the Wayne State Wildcats for the past 17 seasons.  He has a lifetime record of 461-294-1 but even more impressive is his Northern Sun Conference (NSIC) record.  The Wildcats joined the NSIC in 1999 and since that time Manganaro’s team has a .774 winning percentage against conference opponents, has won 5 regular season titles, 5 NSIC Tournament titles and have made it to the NCAA Tournament 6 of the past 8 years.  In 2008, his team was 40-13 marking the 3rd time the Wildcats have amassed 40+ wins.  Pitching has been the hallmark of Wayne State’s success as 7 of the past 9 NSIC Pitchers of the Year have been Wildcats.  Coach Manganaro’s team has once again been picked to finish first in the preseason NSIC coaches poll.  John Manganaro Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

Defense and Baserunning

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Catcher : John Plasha  Infielders: Brandon Polk, Eric Bond, Jake Ritzdorf  Pitchers:  Josh Voth, Austen Wisroth, Trenton Lee, Eric Schwieger, Matt Meier John Bothwell

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We like to have our squad made up of 75% high school recruits and the other 25% JC Transfers 

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Every team on our schedule is our rival … my personal rival is my buddy; Coach Kyle Poock 🙂 from somewhere in MN

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

The guy who hired me to be his assistant .. Lenny Klaver, Lenny made it clear, ” the only way to be successful is to try to do and teach the right things all the time”  and all of my current and former assistants coaches and players. 

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank John Manganaro for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Rough Start to Weekend for Northern Sun Teams

Play at Plate

The weather in the central part of the US was decent yesterday but the results for the 5 Northern Sun Conference baseball teams was choppy.  The teams played a total of 9 games yesterday and finished with a 3-6 record.

  • Winona State started out the day with a convincing 8-1 win over #26 ranked Nebraska – Omaha.  The Warriors were led by a 3 run home run from John Magee (DH) and a 3-5 game from true freshman Tony Mueller (CF) who batted lead off in his first ever college game.  Starter Ross Hellenbrand held the Mavericks to 3 hits over 6 innings .  In game 2, Omaha got off to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning and held on for a 8-5 win.  There were 2 keys to the loss for Winona.  In the 2nd inning, the Nebraska pitcher couldn’t find the plate and walked in 3 runs to tie the score.  With bases loaded and only 1 out they brought in a new pitcher who got the Warriors next batter to hit into a doubly play.  Also, Winona State was sloppy in the field giving up 4 errors which led to 3 unearned runs which proved to be the winning margin.  Warriors Split Season Openers
  • The University of Mary got beat big by the Colorado State – Pueblo Thunderwolves by the score of 20-4.  The score wasn’t quite as lopsided early on as Mary got the score close by fighting back to 7-4 in the 5th inning.  Then they gave up 13 more runs in the later innings.  That said, none of the Marauders 3 pitchers did well and the team moves to 0-4 on the season.  Thunderwolves Thump Marauders
  • Bemidji State split their series against Washburn University in Topeka, KS.  They lost the first game 3-2 despite out hitting Washburn by an 8-6 margin.  In the second game, they took an early 1-0 lead then promptly gave up 3 unearned runs.  Not to be deterred, they scored 4 in the 4th inning to pace them to a 7-4 victory.  The Beavers move to 4-2 on the season, their best start since 2002.  The same teams are scheduled for single games against each other today and Sunday.  Bemidji State Splits 2 Games
  • Minnesota State kicked off their season against Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, MO and came away with a split, winning the opener 6-1 before losing the nightcap, 6-5.  While that might seem like a decent result, the Mavericks are coming into the season picked as the #2 team in the Northern Sun while Southwest Baptist was picked to finish 10th of 11 teams in the MIAA Conference and had a record of 11-33 last year.  The Mavericks were done in by 4 errors and 2 unearned runs in the 2nd game.  Minnesota State’s new head coach, Matt Magers, did pick up his first career coaching win in game 1.  Magers Gets 1st Career Win in Split
  • Finally, Upper Iowa got their season started against highly regarded Central Missouri.  The Mules are ranked #3 in one poll and are one of the powerhouses of Division 2 college baseball with 15 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.  That power certainly showed as the Peacocks were beaten soundly by scores of 7-1 and 10-1.  Upper Iowa Lose 2 in Season Opener

What had originally been scheduled as a full day of games, Saturday looks like it may prove to be challenging to play games because of cold weather.  Already games by Minnesota State and Augustana have been canceled.  Others may be moved back a day if possible.

Northern Sun Weekend Preview – Feb 20-22


The baseball teams of the Northern Sun Conference are scheduled for their busiest weekend yet of this young season and as I wrote yesterday (Winter Games), weather is playing a large factor in many of the scheduled games.  Already we are seeing schools jockey around playing games on Saturday which is scheduled to be cold and crappy across Kansas and Missouri where a lot of games are scheduled this weekend.  For example, Bemidji State has moved a Saturday game in Topeka, KS to Friday to make the double header today when it’s supposed to be warmer.  Wayne State has gone the other way and moved their Saturday/Sunday double header in Pittsburg, KS to a Sunday/Monday double header.

In all, Northern Sun teams are scheduled to play 30 games this Friday-Monday and interestingly, none of them are scheduled against each other.  Four teams will see their first action of the year, including:

  • Winona State kicks off their season playing 5 teams that are currently nationally ranked.  They begin their season today against #26 Nebraska Omaha and continue tomorrow against #18 Central Missouri.  There’s a good preview in the Winona Daily News – Warriors Open With Multiple Tests
  • Upper Iowa is also kicking off their season and is playing in the same set of games with Winona State down in Warrensburg, MO.  They will start with #18 Central Missouri today and then play #26 Nebraska Omaha tomorrow.  A preview of the Peacocks can be found here – Upper Iowa Preview
  • Minnesota State kicks off their season against Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, MO.  The Bearcats were only 11-33 last year and off to a 1-4 start in 2009 so the Mustangs should be the heavy favorites in their 4 game series.
  • As mentioned above, #19 ranked Wayne State kicks off their season against Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, KS.  The Gorillas are much better known as a Division 2 football power than a baseball school and it shows at they were picked to finish 9th out of the 11 teams in the Mid-America Conference – MIAA Baseball Coaches Poll.  Wayne State was picked to finish 1st in the Northern Sun Conference for the 6th straight season so they should hopefully do well this weekend – Wayne State Picked to Win NSIC

The other game we’ll be watching most closely is University of Mary against Colorado State – Pueblo as this game pits a Northern Sun team against a Rocky Mountain Conference team.  These 2 Conferences will face each other in the NCAA Regional Tournament.  By the end of this weekend, only Southwest Minnesota State will have yet to have played a game.

Division 1 College Baseball Season Starts Today

Fresno State 2008

While this blog focuses on Division 2 college baseball, it’s hard to ignore the big boys kicking off their season.  There is still plenty of buzz surrounding last year’s champion, Fresno State, and their improbable run from a team that barely made the Tournament to winning it all.

The following resources should get you prepared for what promises to be another great season –

  • This Sports Illustrated article gives a bit of a recap on Fresno State’s run to the championship last year and a preview of 2009 – Road to Omaha Begins Friday
  • College Baseball Insider has spent the last couple weeks compiling reports from coaches and their own analysis to preview all of the conferences in Division 1 with an emphasis on the best players to watch – College Baseball Insider – Conference Previews
  • ESPN has a good human interest story about Louisville’s Chris Dominguez who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 5th round of the MLB draft but turned them down to return to the Cardinal’s for his Junior season – Dominguez Looks to Repeat Success
  • Rivals is definitely one of the best sites for college baseball news but the one article that caught my eye the most was their attempt to project all 64 teams that they expect to make the NCAA Tournament – Rivals 64 – Preseason Regional Projections 
  • Finally, while Rivals has a good weekend preview too, I’d point you to a really great weekend preview from Baseball America.  They point out where all of the Top 25 are playing as well as other in-depth information.  Their spotlight match-up this weekend is between TCU and Cal-State Fullerton – Baseball America – Weekend Preview

While I try not to show my biases too much, any of you that like to follow the Minnesota Gophers may want to check out their season preview – Gopher Preview or about them kicking off their season today against Seton Hall as a part of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge – Minnesota Kicks off Season

A Story of Sportsmanship


Well this story is a little off topic to the world of college baseball but it’s my blog and I saw a story I liked.

In the world of sports there’s a lot of debate over what makes for good sportsmanship.  Are we are becoming a world that is too politically correct or should show mercy for our opponents?  There was a great example just last month when 2 girls high school basketball programs in Dallas met and Covenant School beat Dallas Academy 100-0.  The firestorm that grew from that game eventually got the Covenant coach fired but also led to a lot of acrimony on both sides of the argument over what is “running up the score” and what’s right or wrong.  The Dallas Morning News carried lots of details on this story and the comments section is quite interesting to gauge people’s reaction and opinion – Dallas Coach Fired – Chronology of Events

Therefore, while there may be debate about what is and isn’t right it may be easier to find stories where we can see that sportsmanship was displayed and that it can make a difference.  Many of you may remember the story last year from the state of Washington.  In that college softball game 2 opposing players carried their opponent around the bases for the winning run when she tore her ACL rounding first (picture above).  That earned the girls lots of notoriety and eventually they won an ESPY.

Finally, I will get to the point of writing this piece.  Yesterday, a story was posted on Yahoo that really drew my attention.  It’s about 2 high school boys teams and how they did the right thing to honor their opponent whose mother had just died.  It was interesting that it went beyond what they did in the game and that these teams actually shared meals after the game together.  I think the most telling thing for me was this quote from one of the coaches –

“This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime,” Rohlman said. “They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they’ll remember what happened in that gym that night.”

It’s a moving story.  I hope you might enjoy it as much as I did – Amid the Grieving – A Rare Act of Sportsmanship

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Kyle Poock

Winona State

This is my 7th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Kyle Poock is entering his 7th season as head coach for the Winona State Warriors, where he also served as assistant coach for 9 seasons prior to that.  He has guided the Warriors to 5 straight winning seasons as well as 5 consecutive appearances in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) postseason tournament.  He was named the Northern Sun Coach of the Year for his efforts in 2004 and helped lead Winona State to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007.  He will try to make it 6 straight winning seasons in 2009 as his squad is picked to finish 4th in the NSIC preseason coaches poll.  His team kicks off their season this weekend by traveling to Warrensburg, MO for games against #26 ranked Nebraska – Omaha and #18 ranked Central Missouri.  Kyle Poock Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

We do not usually look to improve on last year’s team.  Our focus is to become the best team possible this year determined by the talent and strengths of this year’s squad. 

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

We have several red-shirt freshman pitchers, John Wenker and Kodey Simon, who we expect to pick up significant innings for us.  Also two true freshman, Zack Rickaway and Tony Mueller,  should get playing time as well.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

At WSU we like the high school athlete as someone we can work with throughout their college career both athletically and academically. 

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

Wayne State and Coach John Manganaro.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

My biggest influence on my coaching career has been my Dad followed closely by Legendary Coach Gary Grob who I was fortunate to play for and replace as the coach here at WSU.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Kyle Poock for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun – Winter Games

Snowy Field

One thing that every Northern Sun Conference baseball team has to deal with is how to play baseball games when the college baseball season starts on February 1st and your home field might not be available until late March or early April (if then).  This blog has written earlier about how many teams are using the Metrodome in Minneapolis in order to get in games – Northern Sun Teams Fill Metrodome

While that is one option, the primary way that teams deal with the weather is to head south.  This poses its own set of challenges as there’s no guarantee of playable weather in the closest locations as we saw this past weekend for Upper Iowa – Upper Iowa Games Colorado Trip Canceled

The other issue is that these trips cost a lot of money.  A large number of these trips are planned to places like Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas so that teams can take busses instead of flying.  That means 10+ hour bus rides but it does save some money for these non-revenue sports that cost their schools a lot of money to maintain.  In addition to bus trips, many of the schools do like to schedule a spring trip to a warm destination like Florida & Arizona.  This option almost guarantees a large number of games but also forces head coaches to seek out funding for the trips.  In many cases the players are asked to participate in on-campus activities, like working at off-season sporting events to raise money, or the programs hold special fund raisers – Crookston Spaghetti Dinner

The upside is that it allows these northern schools to schedule 50+ games during the season and spread out games across a more reasonable schedule.  Here is a chart showing where each of the teams in the Northern Sun Conference will be traveling to this winter/spring –


As you can see, all but 4 of these teams will be taking what most would consider a “Spring Trip” to either Florida, Phoenix or Georgia.  Three of the teams are going to Fort Myers, FL to play in the Gene Cusick Collegiate Classic – Gene Cusick Classic Info.  Because there really aren’t that many other programs traveling during that time period, what ends up happening is that the teams end up playing each other in non-conference games.  For example, Minnesota Duluth and Southwest Minnesota State have 4 games against each other in Fort Myers.

With the current economic climate in this country one wonders if college baseball coaches will soon be making decisions about having to cut back on some of these types of trips or institute even more fund raising efforts in order to keep these types of schedules alive in the future.

Edit – After posting this article this morning I came across this timely piece in the LA Times that discusses how the economic downturn has teams in Division 1 college baseball considering changes to how they schedule in the future – Economic Downturn Could Lead to Tightening Belts

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Paul Blanchard

SW MN State

This is my 6th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

One of the most successful coaches of not only the Northern Sun Conference but of Division 2 as a whole is Southwest Minnesota State’s Paul Blanchard.  Entering his 13th season as head coach of the Mustangs, Blanchard has had only 1 non-winning season.  He is the winningest coach in school history and has led them to 1 regular season conference championship and 3 post-season tournament championships.  As a player he competed for Creighton University for 2 years before transferring to the University of Minnesota where he played both football and baseball – a modern day Eric Decker.  He has also participated in helping develop players for USA Baseball.  Paul Blanchard Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

Pitching is the area we need to improve on the most.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?

Matt Bauer, Jr.,  (3B-DH);  Doug Mead, FR. OF; Tyler Paulson, Jr., RHP.

3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

We recruit mostly High School players. We will recruit J.C. players if we have an immediate need.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

I would say our biggest rival is Wayne State.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

The biggest influence on my career has been my father and mother. The other has been Rob Fornasiere (Asst. at the University of Minnesota)

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Paul Blanchard for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

NCAA Division 2 Baseball Tournament – Conference Alignment & Links

NCAA Baseball Logo

All 237 NCAA Division 2 baseball teams are starting up their seasons with the same goal in mind.  That goal is to be one of the 48 teams that make the NCAA Tournament. 

Each Conference is divided out into 1 of 8 Regions and this alignment has changed for 2009.  These Regions comprise the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Six sites will host 6 teams, one site (West) will host 4 teams and one site (South) will host 8 teams.  These Regional’s will be played as a double-elimination tournament to determine the Regional Champion who will advance as 1 of the 8 teams to the NCAA Division 2 National Tournament.  The double-elimination Championship this year will be played May 23-30 in Cary, NC.  NCAA Tourney Info

The Regional winners are already paired for the National Tourney.  For 2009 they are as follows –


Therefore, if you are following your Conference you might also want to look ahead to the teams that make up your Region and, if you like to look ahead, the teams that could be your 1st round NCAA National Tournament opponent.  That’s why those of us that are watching the Northern Sun Conference in the Central Region are also keeping a close eye on the Rocky Mountain Conference.

Here are the Regional breakdowns, including the links to each of the Conference’s to make it easier to keep track of the schools within each.

 Atlantic Region – 35 teams
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – CIAA Baseball
Independent (Columbia Union)
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference – PSAC Baseball
West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – WVIAC Baseball
Central Region – 22 teams
Independent (North Dakota)
Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference – NSIC Baseball
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference – RMAC Baseball
East Region – 35 teams
East Coast Conference – ECC Baseball
Northeast Conference (Bryant)
Northeast-10 Conference – N-10 Baseball
Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference – CACC Baseball
Midwest Region – 24 teams
Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – GLIAC Baseball
Great Lakes Valley Conference – GLVC Baseball
Independent (Chowan, Oakland City)
Ohio Valley Conference – OVC Baseball
South Region – 41 teams
Gulf South Conference – GSC Baseball
Independent (Flagler College, Palm Beach Atlantic, Puerto Rico-3)
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – SIAC Baseball
Sunshine State Conference – SSC Baseball
Southland Conference – Southland Baseball
Southeast Region – 31 teams
Conference Carolinas – Carolinas Baseball
Independent (North Carolina Central, North Greenville)
Peach Belt Conference – PBC Baseball
South Atlantic Conference –SAC Baseball
South Central Region – 31 teams
Heartland Conference – Heartland Baseball
Lone Star Conference – Lone Star Baseball
Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association – MIAA Baseball
West Region – 18 teams
California Collegiate Athletic Association – CCAA Baseball
Great Northwest Athletic Conference – GNAC Baseball
Pacific West Conference – PWC Baseball

Northern Sun Coach Survey – Tim Huber

Augie Logo

This is my 5th entry in my series of questionnaire responses I received from coaches in the Northern Sun Conference.

Augustana College features a new, first year head coach in Tim Huber.  Huber came to the Vikings after completing 4 seasons as head coach of Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) in Rosemount, MN where his teams improved every year.  The year before his arrival, DCTC had finished 5-30.  In his first season, Tim lead the team to a 19-20-1 record and by his last season they were 1 game away from advancing to the Community College World Series with a 31-16 record.  He also has strong ties to the Northern Sun Conference having been an Assistant Coach at Southwest Minnesota State from 2003-04 and having played his collegiate baseball career with Minnesota State.  During his career as an outfielder for the Mavericks (1997-2001) he was named All-Conference twice and helped the team to 4 conference titles.  Tim Huber Bio

1. In what area(s) are you looking for your team to make the biggest improvement over 2008?

My first year its so tough to say but overall our pitchers need to walk less guys and give us a chance.

2. What newcomers to your team look like they will make the biggest impact?


3. What’s your philosophy regarding recruiting out of high school vs. college transfers?

At Augustana we have a very high academic profile.  Quite often junior college players have a difficult time with grades (if I can generalize).  So quite often the best type of fit for us will be high school students with a good academic status.  With that being said I was a head coach at a junior college for 4 years and have developed some connections at that level, so I am sure we will bring in a junior college player or two each year to help with immediate needs at certain positions.  Bottom line is we want players with talent who can help us win at a high level who are also looking for a great academic experience.

4. What Northern Sun team do you consider to be your schools biggest rival?

At this point none.  I’m sure one or two will develop.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your coaching philosophy and/or career?

There is not one single person who has influenced the way I coach and my career.  There are several people who have been big factors and who I owe a ton of gratitude to.  First is Barry Wohler, my high school FB coach, who showed me what it was like to have passion for coaching and how to get the most out of your players.  Second was Dean Bowyer, my college coach at Mankato State.  I learned so many things about the game of baseball from “7”.  Like Coach Bowyer, I hate to lose and work very hard to make sure my teams are successful.  Yet respecting teammates, other players, coaches, and the game; having good character, playing hard, and developing relationships that last a lifetime are just a few things I learned that are even more important.  Probably the most important thing I learned from “7” was how to teach and coach in the fall and winter and then when the spring season starts, let the players play the game.  In my short time with Matt Parrington at Macalester I was lucky enough to be able to really teach and help players develop.  Parr helped me understand some important organizational aspects as well.  The last person who influenced my coaching career was Paul Blanchard at Southwest MN State.  Coach Blanchard is a “baseball guy” through and through.  From him I learned a lot about teaching the finer points of the game.  How to make sure your team was prepared for every situation that could come up.  I also learned from Blanch what it was like to work hard and commit countless hours to scouting and recruiting.  To these men I am eternally grateful for helping me get into the great profession of a college baseball coach.

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog would like to thank Tim Huber for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

Northern Sun Players of the Week – Feb 17

Players Of The Week

The Northern Sun Conference has named their Players of the Week for the week ending on February 15th.  There was only a few teams in action this past week so the number of players to choose from was limited but the 2 individuals selected had very good performances.

Minnesota Duluth’s Tyler Erickson was named Player of the Week.  The sophomore shortstop from Alexandria, MN had an outstanding week for the Bulldogs in helping lead them to a  2-1 start to the season.  For the week he hit .667 and he was 6 for 7 against Concordia in a double header last Tuesday.  He ended the week 6 for 9 at the plate with 3 triples, 4 runs scored, a .727 OBP and a stolen base.  In addition, he was perfect in the field.  Tyler Erickson Press Release

The winner of this week’s Pitcher of the Week was Tim Scott of St. Cloud State.  In game 1 of this past weekend’s series against Missouri Southern the Huskies blew a big lead and lost 14-13.  Scott, a junior from Ely, MN, started the 2nd game and pitched 6 innings of 1 hit ball to lead his team to a 4-1 victory.  He is now 2-0 on the season with a 1.50 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .200 batting average.  While the St. Cloud State press release isn’t accurate (it was game 2 not 3) the results sure were on the money – Tim Scott Press Release

The main NSIC press release can be found here – NSIC Week 2 Release

College Baseball Miscellaneous

Stepping Into Box

Later today I’ll be publishing the Northern Sun Players of the Week as well as the 5th in my series of interviews with Northern Sun Conference head coaches.  For the time being, I would point you to the following items of interest –

  • Ping!Baseball normally publishes their Division 2 National Rankings on Monday but delayed it a day with the President’s Day holiday.  Their rankings are quite different than the ones from College Baseball News CBN Feb 16 rankings.  Southern Arkansas is atop the Ping rankings followed by Ouachita Baptist and Central Missouri.  Lynn, who was ranked #1 in the CBN poll, is ranked #5 by Ping.  Mesa State, a team we have interest in watching, is ranked #5 by CBN but #16 by Ping and there are no teams in the Northern Sun Conference that make Ping’s Top 30 – Ping!Baseball – Top 30
  • As a part of our series with Northern Sun head coaches we got to hear from Minnesota State coach Matt Magers yesterday – Matt Magers Interview.  Today the Mankato Free Press newspaper came out with their season preview article on the Mavericks which focuses on senior second baseman Jay Bresnahan, one of the leaders on a team that is expected to compete for a conference title – Bresnahan Poised To Lead Mavericks
  • Finally, the college baseball Division 1 season is about to kick off and Rivals has published their pre-season All-American team.  For those that are interested in following players that have a good chance to be drafted high and have the potential to have an impact in Major League Baseball someday, these would be names to keep an eye on – Division 1 Preseason All-American Team

Daily Posts

February 2009