Archive for April 17th, 2009

NSIC College Baseball Weekend Preview – 4/17/09

Weekend Preview

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.

SW MN State Upper Iowa

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.

stcloudstate_logo augustana

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 Crookston Golden Eagles

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 U of Mary

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 State1 northern state

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 Bemidji State Beavers

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

Minnesota State – Idle

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The Challenge of Baseball in the Lake Conference

Fighting the Sun

In Minnesota, the premier athletic conference in all of high school sports is by far and away the Lake Conference.  Pick any high school sport and it’s likely that a Lake Conference team has won the state championship within the past 3 years.

That has been the case in baseball as well with teams from Apple Valley, Lakeville and Eden Prairie winning it all within the past 5 years.  Last year the Conference sent 3 teams to the state championship.  2008 saw a bumper crop of talent come from the Lake as almost every team produced college bound baseball players.  Chaska turned out the state’s player of the year, Brad Hand, who skipped college to go straight to the Florida Marlins system after being drafted by Major League Baseball in the 2nd round.

While some consider the talent to be down this year, here’s an example of the challenge faced by being a Lake team using my hometown Rosemount nine –

Game 1 – Eastview – starting pitcher Nick Dolsky, a D1 recruit going to Arizona.  4 pro scouts were in the stands.

Game 2 – Eagan – starting pitcher Charlie Weinberg, a D1 recruit going to Illinois-Chicago

Game 3 – Burnsville – starting pitcher Grant Larson, a D2 recruit going to Augustana who was relieved by Jack Lassonde, a D2 recruit going to Minnesota Duluth

Game 5 – Chaska – starting pitcher Shawn Riesgraf, a D1/D2 recruit

Game 6 – Eden Prairie – almost certain to face Tim Bado, their #1 pitcher

Speaking of Chaska’s Shawn Riesgraf, it was interesting to see his recruitment unfold as St. Cloud State’s pitching coach (Pete Pratt), Minnesota State’s head coach (Matt Majers) and D1 recruiters from NDSU and UND were in attendance.  Riesgraf got a 4-1 complete game win, giving up 6 hits and no earned runs.  He threw around 83 on the UND/NDSU guns.  I’m guessing there’s a decent chance he ends up in the Northern Sun next year as at least 1 of the D1 recruiters didn’t seem that interested.

My thanks to coach Pratt and Majers who took a little time to chat – it was good to meet the people in person I’m writing about.

NCAA D2 Regional College Baseball Poll

NCAA Baseball Logo

The official NCAA Division 2 college baseball poll was released 2 days ago for the first time.  This is a primary indicator for teams as to where they stand when it comes to whether they will receive an at-large bid to their respective NCAA Regional Tourney.

All Northern Sun teams are members of D2’s Central Region – a region which includes the 13 NSIC teams along with the 8 teams from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.  Each Conference will hold their own year-end Conference Tournament.  The winners of the NSIC and RMAC Tournaments each receive an automatic bid to be 1 of 6 teams in the NCAA Central Region Tourney.  The other 4 spots are at-large bids which this poll helps to determine.

image

Unfortunately for the Northern Sun Conference, 3 of the top 4 spots are currently owned by RMAC teams.  If the season ended today, the Northern Sun would only receive 2 or 3 of the 6 spots even though they have 13 teams compared to 8 in the RMAC.  They could receive only 2 spots if a team like Regis unexpectedly were to win the RMAC Tourney and get their automatic bid which would leave Mesa, Pueblo and Highlands to get at-large bids.

Each of the RMAC teams only has 3 weekend series remaining (12 games).  The best bet for Northern Sun teams would be for New Mexico Highlands to lose a bunch of those – they do have a 4 game series against Mesa State coming up.

The complete Regional poll can be found here – NCAA D2 Regional College Baseball Poll


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