Road to Texas goes through Cleveland Featured

Statesmen celebrateThe Delta State University Statesmen were all smiles last week after winning the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The conference title helped seal up the No. 1 seed in the South Region Tournament.

The road to the NCAA Division II World Series in Grand Prairie, Texas will begin here at Harvey Stadium-Ferriss Field.

The Delta State University Statesmen, ranked No. 2 in this weeks Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Poll, finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the South Region and will host the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament this week. The double elimination tournament will start Thursday and conclude with the championship game on Monday. The winner of the championship game will advance to the NCAA Division II World Series on May 27.

This is the first time since 2008 that DSU has hosted the regional.

With the Statesmen (41-11) receiving the No. 1 seed, they will get a first round bye and wont play until Friday at 3 p.m.

Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison said he is excited about the opportunity to have the region tournament in Cleveland.

Its something I put a lot of value on because it brings great baseball to our community and I think it enhances the people who follow us and support us, Kinnison said. Its good for our community, our university, our fan base and alumni. It gives them a chance to see some of the best baseball teams in the country right here.

At this point, I dont mind staying close to home and sleeping in our own bed. Whether thats an advantage or not, you never know. Well see but the competition is going to be tough.

Delta State is making its 31st postseason appearance and has won the region 11 times and has advanced to the Division II National Title game four times, winning the World Series in 2004. DSUs last region championship came in 2012 when the team also finished second in the NCAA Division II World Series.

The region will have three teams from the Sunshine State Conference. They are Tampa (37-12, No. 2 seed, No. 4 nationally), Nova Southeastern (33-16, No. 3 seed, No. 18 nationally) and Florida Southern (34-15, No. 4 seed, No. 23 nationally).

Nova Southeastern won the Division II National Championship last year, while Tampa won it in 2015. Florida Southern has won the region 20 times and the NCAA World Series nine times with its most recent national championship coming in 2005. Tampa has won 17 region championships and seven national championships. Tampa is making its 32nd trip to the postseason, while Florida Southern is making its 42nd regional appearance. Florida Southern head coach Lance Niekro is the son of the late Joe Niekro, who was a knuckleball pitcher that won 221 games in a 22-year Major League career. He is also the nephew of Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro. Lances younger brother, J.J., is a freshman pitcher on the Florida Southern team.

The Gulf South Conference has three representatives. Along with Delta State, the Valdosta State University Blazers (33-20, No. 5 seed) and the University West Alabama Tigers (34-19, No. 6 seed) will also be looking to punch their ticket to Texas. Valdosta State is making its 20th appearance in the NCAA regionals and has won seven region championships, while West Alabama is making its ninth trip to the NCAA regionals. Valdosta State last won the region in 1995 and won its only national title in 1979.

Miles College (31-21, No. 7 seed) rounds out the field. The Golden Bears won the Southern Intercollegiate Conference Championship earlier this month to advance to the NCAA regionals for the first time in school history.

Kinnison said the competition in this region is as tough as it gets.

All of these programs are here because they have great traditions and good foundations, Kinnison said. Its no easy task and theres no easy way to get out of this region. Weve seen in the last several years the teams that come out of this region have a great chance to go to the College World Series and compete and have an opportunity to win it. Its tough competition, but if you get through it you will be well prepared to go compete in the World Series.

NCAA Division II South Region

Baseball Tournament

(Cleveland, May 18-22)

Thursday, May 18

GM1 • No. 3 Nova SE vs No. 6 West Ala., 11 a.m.

GM2 • No. 2 Tampa vs No. 7 Miles, 3 p.m.

GM3 • No. 4 Florida So. vs. No. 5 Valdosta St., 7 p.m.

Friday, May 19

GM4 • Loser GM1 vs Loser GM2, 11 a.m.

GM5 • No. 1 Delta State vs Winner GM3, 3 p.m.

GM6 • Winner GM1 vs. Winner GM2, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 20

GM7 • Loser GM5 vs Winner GM4, 11 am

GM8 • Loser GM3 vs Loser GM6, 3 pm

GM9 • Winner GM5 vs. Winner GM6, 7 pm

Sunday, May 21

GM10 • Winner GM7 vs Winner GM8, 1 p.m.

GM11 • Winner GM10 vs Loser GM9, 4:30 p.m.

Monday, May 22

GM12 • Winner GM9 vs Winner GM11, 1 p.m.

GM13 • If necessary, 4:30 p.m.

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