Archive for March, 2010

First 2 Weeks of Northern Sun Play Complete

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We are 2 weeks into the Northern Sun Conference’s league games and there seems to be a clear division between the haves and the have nots.  The top 6 teams are a combined 37-3 and have outscored the other 7 teams 476-134.  Poor Minnesota Crookston is losing by an average score of 15-1 (and that’s rounding up).

News of Note –

  • Wayne State has only lost 2 games but the fact that they won 3 of 4 from 2 different teams that they easily swept last year (Bemidji State and Minnesota Duluth) is another sign that this team isn’t quite as good as last years squad.  They would seem to be doing okay at 6-2  but that already drops them 2 games behind a number of other top contenders.  Last year’s Wildcats were 27-4 in league play so they have to go on quite the streak to match them.
  • Wayne State’s 1 loss this weekend was dealt by Duluth’s starting pitcher, Anders Engberg.  The Burnsville, MN native was dominant in the 2nd half of 2009 and earned 2nd team all-conference accolades as a freshman but was battling early season arm troubles.  It looks like he may be coming back into form.  If that’s the case, he can be hard to beat anytime he starts so it will be interesting to see how St. Cloud State fares after facing 2 cupcakes.  Duluth’s coaching staff would probably do well to go with him in one of the 7 inning contests as they did against Wayne State.
  • Winona State’s head coach, Kyle Poock, won his 200th game as coach of the Warriors.  The 2 wins on Saturday gave him an overall record of 200-148-1 in 7 seasons as head coach which include 5 straight winning seasons.  Winona went on to sweep all 4 games against Crookston to kick off their NSIC title hopes.    Poock Gets 200th Win
  • 2 of the more dominant pitchers so far this season are freshman from Minnesota’s Lake Conference –
    • St. Cloud State is loaded with great pitching stats and the pitcher with the best line so far is Shawn Riesgraf, a freshman from Chaska.  Riesgraf improved to 5-0 over the weekend and leads all Huskies pitchers with a 1.40 ERA and .174 BAA.  While not nearly as heralded as his pitching teammate from the 2008 class (Brad Hand) he was highly recruited by Minnesota State and others.
    • Augustana’s Grant Larson doesn’t have quite the same ERA but he leads the Vikings with a 4-0 record.  The freshman from Burnsville, MN does need to work on some control issues as he’s already hit 11 batters in just 28.2 innings of work.
  • The big series for the coming week will be the home and home series between Minnesota State and Southwest Minnesota State.  These 2 teams split the only 2 games they played last year.  With the Mavericks finishing just 1 game out of first place in 2009, it was a costly loss. 
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Northern Sun Team Statistics

NSIC Logo

The NCAA has started publishing their Division 2 baseball statistics for the 2009-10 season which gives us a great way to compare the different teams within the NSIC against each other and see how they stack up nationally.  NCAA Statistics Tool (Choose Division II and then lots of selections to get to the Northern Sun list).

Here’s how the teams rank among all 225 D2 baseball programs:

Batting Average

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St. Cloud State leads all Northern Sun teams with a team batting average of .354 which ranks 12th in all of Division 2 baseball.  Augustana and Minnesota State also look like they are having very good years at the plate.  Every other team in the Conference ranks in the bottom half of D2.  We’ve previously chronicled the problems at the plate for perennial power Wayne State.  Even with a strong weekend at Bemidji they still rank in the bottom 20% (although the Monday games aren’t in the stats).

Most of the other hitting categories are very similar.

Stolen Bases Per Game

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Another measure to look at is which teams are creating scoring opportunities and using stolen bases to put pressure on the defense and pitchers.   As you can see, it’s a lot of the same teams but this statistic is obviously a measure of how often you are on base too which shows up in the batting average.  It may be more useful to look at which ones are different such as Mary which has a low batting average but a much higher steal ranking and Bemidji State who has a decent batting average but looks like they hardly ever steal.

Earned Run Average

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I said early on in my preview that Minnesota State was going to be in good shape with their pitching and that shows up as they are ranked 11th nationally (and 8th nationally in hits allowed/game).  Among the other top teams, St. Cloud State is pitching well as are Winona State and Wayne State.  Mary’s pitchers are doing very well which is a surprise.  Augustana is sitting at 4-0 in the Conference standings but it looks like they are going to be fighting the opposite issue of Wayne State this year (good pitching, average hitting).  Minnesota Duluth is much improved compared to last year when their pitching at the beginning of the year was awful. 

Fielding Percentage

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The Northern Sun Conference sports 4 teams ranked among the top 20 teams in D2 baseball in regards to fielding.  Once again we see St. Cloud State and Minnesota State near the top of the rankings showing that these teams are solid in all phases of the game.  Southwest Minnesota State is a bit of an enigma since they’ve played few games so far but being last in fielding and middle of the pack in other categories doesn’t bode well for a team that made the NCAA Regional Tourney last year.

Individual Stats

It should be noted some great rankings so far among NSIC players –

  • Zach Rowles of Minnesota State is 10th nationally with a .508 Batting Average
  • Mary’s Andy Leer leads the country in Triples per Game
  • Wayne State’s Nick Bidroski is 6th in the country with a .607 On Base Percentage
  • Minnesota Duluth’s Tyler Erickson is 20th in Stolen Bases per Game
  • St. Cloud State Freshman Shawn Riesgraf is 17th nationally with a 1.19 Earned Run Average.  Their are 6 NSIC pitchers in the top 50 including 2 from Mary
  • Josh Voth of Wayne State is 2nd in Walks Allowed per 9 Innings as he only allows .43 per full game

Conclusions

While these make for interesting analysis, they are somewhat meaningless from the standpoint of comparing teams since every team plays different levels of non conference schedules.  Last year at this time St. Cloud State was also near the top of every Conference ranking and finished outside the Top 6 NSIC teams.  I do think their early schedule was much improved this year.

Players of the Week & Where We Stand

Players Of The Week

The Northern Sun Conference has named its Players of the Week for the 7th week.  For the 2nd week in a row a Minnesota Duluth player wins an award.  In an interesting twist, Charlie Dubanoski and Augustana’s only loss of the week was to Gary Wilfahrt Jr. – NSIC Week 7 Release

NSIC Player of the Week
Photo# 37 Charlie Dubanoski
C, 5-10, 185, Jr., R/R,
Burnsville, Minn.
Burnsville HS
Augustana

Charlie Dubanoski helped the Vikings go 8-1 last week. Dubanoski posed a .548 average, going 17 of 31. He collected 15 RBI on the week after belting three homeruns. Also, five of his hits on the week were doubles and he also had one triple. One of his best games of the week came against Concordia-St. Paul on Sunday, where he was 2 for 5 with both of his hits being homeruns. He recorded five RBI in that game. He was also 3 for 3 against the Golden Bears the game before, recording one double and batting in two. He had no errors and 28 putouts on the week.

NSIC Pitcher of the Week
Photo#5 Gary Wilfahrt,Jr.
RHP, 6-1, 210, Sr.,
New Ulm, Minn.
New Ulm Cathedral HS
Minnesota Duluth

Gary Wilfahrt, Jr., was a perfect 2-0 in his pair of starts last week as he picked up non-conference wins over Augustana (3-2) and U-Mary (5-1). The Bulldog team co-captain maintained a 2.25 earned run average, working 12 innings (including a complete game performance in game one against Mary) while allowing seven hits. The righty gave up only three runs, striking out 12 batters while surrendering just two free passes. Opponents mustered a paltry .171 batting average against the hurler.

Week 1 Conference Standings

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The first week of NSIC play is in the books and the teams you expected to win did so.  The top 4 teams had big offensive outputs as they scored a combined 199 runs in the 16 games for an average of more than 12 runs/game.  These included –

  • Wayne State 19, Bemidji State 2
  • Minnesota State 21, Northern State 0
  • St. Cloud State 27, Minnesota Crookston 0

The biggest impact of the weekend wasn’t that St. Cloud State, Minnesota State and Augustana are 4-0.  It’s that 1 loss by Wayne State.  While losing a game to Bemidji is nothing to feel bad about, it may prove costly at the end of the season where there looks to be a much more competitive set of teams at the top of the standings.

We should know more this coming week when more teams are in action, although it’s interesting that none of the very top teams are really playing each other.  The best matchup is probably Minnesota State vs. Upper Iowa who is a bit of a mystery this year but is usually quite competitive.

Northern Sun D2 College Baseball Poll – 3/23/10

Northern Sun D2 Poll1

The Northern Sun Division 2 College Baseball Poll is back for its 2nd year.  Each week, the Northern Sun Baseball Blog combines the 3 primary Division 2 College Baseball Poll’s into 1 composite ranking of the Top 30 teams.

There’s a new number 1 team in NCAA Division 2 baseball and it’s the University of California – San Diego.  The Tritons pulled into the #1 position without playing a game.  Florida Southern, the team at the top of the polls the first 3 weeks of our 2010 poll, dropped to #2 after being punished by the NCBWA for losing 1 of their 4 games during the week.

Big movers up this week included USC – Aiken and Emporia State who move into the Top 10 and the biggest mover, Northern Kentucky, who broke into the Top 30 and jumped up all the way to a tie for 20th.  Abilene Christian, Columbus State and Franklin Pierce all dropped 4 or more spots.

The Baseball Writers poll (NCBWA) continues to be the oddball this year.  Not only did they punish Florida Southern but they have significantly different ratings than the other 2 polls in a number of areas.  These can be seen with teams like West Chester, Columbus State, New Mexico Highlands and Valdosta State.  In addition, they have 5 teams in their Top 30 that don’t show up in either of the other 2 polls.

The Northern Sun Conference lost its 1 representative in the Top 30 as Minnesota State dropped just out of the poll.  Winona State and St. Cloud State also received Top 30 recognition in at least 1 poll.

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CBN – College Baseball News; Ping – Ping!Baseball; NCBWA – National College Baseball Writers Association; NSB Rank – Northern Sun Baseball Composite Poll; Comb Pts – Combined points in the composite rankings; LW – Last week’s composite ranking

College Baseball News Poll

Ping!Baseball Poll

NCBWA Poll

Northern Sun Conference Games Start Today – Poll Results

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The Northern Sun Conference’s 2010 regular season baseball games kick off today as St. Cloud State and Minnesota Crookston take to the Metrodome at 2pm for the first of 208 scheduled NSIC matchups.  There are 4 series scheduled for this weekend.  This will also kick off the new doubleheader format of 1 – 9 inning game followed by a 7 inning game each day.  I had previewed this new format and some of the impact last fall – Change To Doubleheader Format

  • St Cloud State @ Minnesota Crookston – St. Cloud’s Friday/Saturday games against Crookston were smartly planned in the Metrodome where they were guaranteed a playable field.  The Huskies are the clear favorite to win all 4 games but only won 3 of 4 last year.  In the end, that 1 loss to a team who only won 3 NSIC games, cost them a chance to go to the NSIC post season tournament.  Series preview is here – SCSU To Battle Golden Eagles
  • Concordia @ Augustana – The Concordia @ Augustana series has been moved from Sioux Falls to St. Paul and will be played at Concordia’s Barnes Field.  Last year the Vikings kicked off their successful season by winning 3 of 4 against the Golden Bears in the opening weekend.  This year they should be the slight favorites but these games could go either way – Opening Weekend Moved to Barnes Field
  • Wayne State @ Bemidji State – Wayne State will travel to Bemidji State to try and play 4 games in northern Minnesota on March 20th.  When those games were scheduled I would have bet a lot of money that they couldn’t play in Bemidji that early in the season.  This should be an interesting series as Wayne State has struggled in non conference play and the Beavers have a few nice wins and are ranked #9 in the Central Region by NCBWA.  If Wayne doesn’t take at least 3 of 4 their chances of winning a 7th straight NSIC title will take a hit.
  • Minnesota State @ Northern State – Finally, no word on where the Minnesota State vs. Northern State games will be played.  Minnesota State can’t afford to have any of these games cancelled as they should easily sweep the overmatched Wolves.

Preseason Poll Results

This past week I asked Northern Sun Baseball’s readers which team would win the NSIC Regular Season Title.  It was a tight race and in the end 2 teams (Winona State and Wayne State) tied for the lead.  This year certainly looks like it could be closer than years past as I think any of 4 teams could win it –

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Thanks to all who voted!

New York Times Article on the Metrodome and Other News

Metrodome Interior

My thanks to Dave Kincaid for drawing my attention to yesterday’s New York Times article about the importance of the Metrodome for college baseball in the upper Midwest – Winter Ball Never Sleeps or Shivers at Metrodome.  It’s a very good read (it is the New York Times after all) and details the nearly non-stop usage of the facility from February through April.

Ron Petrich, now an assistant professor of education at Augsburg, a small Minneapolis college, doubles as the scheduler and matchmaker for college baseball games at the Metrodome. Since 1984, he has kept the Dome humming with games, practices and scrimmages almost around the clock from February through April, when winter finally eases. The Metrodome may have said goodbye to major league baseball, but for now, it remains a Teflon-roofed lifesaver for more than 100 college, high school and other amateur teams throughout the upper Midwest.

And no more so than this winter. In February, Petrich said, he was receiving five or six calls a day from coaches with snow-covered fields as far away as Kansas and Illinois. That made for some creative scheduling.

As I’ve lamented here before (Northern Sun – Winter Games) it’s going to be very difficult on a lot of college baseball teams if they tear down the Metrodome to make way for a new Vikings stadium.

Other News

The Northern Sun Baseball Blog was recognized by Onlinedegrees.net as one of the 100 Best College Sports Blogs in the country.  I have no idea who they are and I see it’s a new site but they lumped me in with a bunch of better known sites so it’s always nice to get some recognition.

The NCAA updated their D2 Blog today and chronicled some of the teams in Division 2 baseball that had the best weeks to move them up in the national polls – Not Aiken For Wins

Finally, Northern Sun fans of NSIC’s top teams are always reminded to keep one eye on what’s happening with the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference who shares the Central Region with the NSIC.  The RMAC is already 3 weeks into their Conference season.  New Mexico Highlands is the only team getting national recognition.  These 2 Conference’s send 6 teams combined to the NCAA Regional Tournament so the NSIC should be hoping for at least 3 bids – RMAC Week 7 Update

Northern Sun D2 College Baseball Poll – 3/16/10

Northern Sun D2 Poll1

The Northern Sun Division 2 College Baseball Poll is back for its 2nd year.  Each week, the Northern Sun Baseball Blog combines the 3 primary Division 2 College Baseball Poll’s into 1 composite ranking of the Top 30 teams.

For the 3rd straight week Florida Southern is the unanimous #1 team in NCAA Division 2 baseball.  The Moccasins swept games against good opponents in Winona State, Ashland and Valdosta State to solidify their record.

For some reason, CBN and NCBWA dropped Southern Arkansas in the rankings despite the Muleriders winning all their games.  With those changes they move from a tie for 2nd in the poll all the way down to 5th place. 

Tampa made a big move up the rankings as they go from #20 to #15 and now to #7 this week.  They not only won 7 games during the week, they won them by a large average margin.  USC – Aiken also had a nice move upward and Southeastern Oklahoma makes its first appearance ever on this poll coming in at #26.

The Northern Sun Conference’s Minnesota State comes in at a tie for #29 while Winona State and St. Cloud State both received some votes this week.

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CBN – College Baseball News; Ping – Ping!Baseball; NCBWA – National College Baseball Writers Association; NSB Rank – Northern Sun Baseball Composite Poll; Comb Pts – Combined points in the composite rankings; LW – Last week’s composite ranking

College Baseball News Poll

Ping!Baseball Poll

NCBWA Poll


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