Celebrating its 18th consecutive year in Appleton, the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship is assured of having a first-time winner for the third straight year.
The eight teams vying for the 2017 title include four programs making their inaugural World Series appearances and two others that are making their first trips to Appleton.
Newcomers to the final tournament are Concordia University Chicago (Ill.), Roanoke College (Va.), State University of New York at Oswego and Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.).
Two-time national runner-up California Lutheran University and North Central College (Ill.) are back at the World Series for the first time since 1999 and 1987, respectively.
Completing the field are the University of Massachusetts Boston and Wheaton College (Mass.). UMass Boston returns to Appleton for the second time and first since 2010 while Wheaton College was the national runner-up during its two previous trips in 2006 and 2012.
Last year, Trinity University became the first team from Texas to claim the title as the Tigers swept the best-of-three championship series over Keystone College (Pa.), including a 10-7 victory in the final game.
This weekend’s tournament will be held at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, the home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The hosts for the event are Lawrence University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Let’s look at our finalists for the 42nd edition of the championship.
California Lutheran University
California Lutheran University has reached the World Series for the sixth time and first since consecutive trips in 1998 and 1999.
The Kingsmen, the 1992 and 1996 national runners-up and 1999 third-place finisher, have won nine straight games, including a three-game sweep through the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament and a four-game run at the Tyler (Texas) Regional.
Top-seeded California Lutheran University secured the SCIAC’s automatic berth to the national field with a pair of one-run victories over the University of Redlands (Calif.). The Kingsmen then traveled more than 1,500 miles to Texas for the Tyler Regional, where second-seeded California Lutheran University defeated fifth-seeded Concordia University Texas, 9-7, in the championship game.
The Kingsmen regained the lead for good in the regional final at six to four on a two-out, three-run homer by senior outfielder Gabe Gunter in the fourth inning.
California Lutheran University, which enters the final tournament with a 35-10 record, lists among the top five teams in the nation with a .975 fielding percentage.
The Kingsmen offense is led by Gunter and junior second baseman Max Weinstein. Gunter paces the squad with 17 doubles, five home runs and 39 runs batted in while Weinstein is hitting .382 with 35 runs scored and four homers. Senior third baseman Jimmy Jauregui hits .329 with 15 doubles.
Spearheading the California Lutheran University pitching staff are starters Nate Wehner and Marshall Pautsch.
Wehner, a junior, has an 8-3 record with a 2.29 earned run average while senior Pautsch is 9-2 with 93 strikeouts.
California Lutheran University 24-year head coach Marty Slimak, has amassed a 683-322-8 record, 13 NCAA appearances and 12 SCIAC titles since 1994.
California Lutheran University, founded in 1959, is located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The main 225-acre campus is complemented by two satellite locations. California Lutheran University offers 36 majors, 35 minors and seven pre-professional programs to its nearly 3,000 undergraduate students.
Concordia University Chicago
Concordia University Chicago slugged its way to the program’s first World Series appearance, outscoring opponents, 46-8, and collecting 55 hits on the way to the winning all four games and claiming the Whitewater (Wis.) Regional title.
The Cougars shut out the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 14-0, to reach the Whitewater Regional final. Concordia University Chicago then completed its unbeaten regional romp by hitting three home runs among its 17 hits during a 17-3 rout of UW-La Crosse in the championship game.
Despite the Cougars’ offensive exploits, it was junior relief pitcher Mike Formella who earned the Whitewater Regional’s Most Outstanding Player award. Formella notched saves in three of the Cougars’ four wins, allowing just one run with 12 strikeouts across 9.1 innings pitched.
Concordia University Chicago, which has compiled a 33-11 record, won the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) regular season and tournament championships for the fourth consecutive season. The Cougars, who have not lost since April 22, head to Appleton on a 14-game winning streak. Concordia University Chicago is the first team from the NACC to reach the World Series since the conference debuted in 2006.
Sophomore shortstop Bryan VanDuser, the NACC Player of the Year, leads the prolific Concordia University Chicago offense, hitting .413 with 56 runs scored.
Senior first baseman Brent Spohr is batting .328 with a team-high 22 doubles and 51 runs batted in while junior second baseman Mitch Wilson is hitting .366 with six home runs and 18 of the team’s 122 stolen bases.
The Cougar pitching staff has produced a 3.62 earned run average. Junior Keaton Conner and senior Cody Caballero headline the starters with Conner producing a 6-3 record with a 3.31 earned run average and Caballero sporting a 5-2 mark with a 3.74 ERA.
Mike Stawski, in his second season as Concordia University Chicago’s head coach, owns a 67-24 record and a pair of NCAA postseason appearances.
Founded in 1864, Concordia University Chicago is a private, liberal arts-based, comprehensive university grounded in the Lutheran tradition. The 40-acre suburban campus of more than 5,000 students in upscale River Forest, Ill., provides opportunities to gain practical experience that supplement classroom learning.
North Central College
North Central College enters its second trip to the World Series as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Cardinals, who owned a 15-15 record in early May, have won 14 of their last 15 games, including a four-game sweep through the Sauget (Ill.) Regional.
The Cardinals booked their first finals appearance since 1987 by outscoring their regional opponents by a combined 19-6 score. Fifth-seeded North Central College shut out top-seeded Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.) to reach the Sauget Regional final, where the Cardinals again knocked off the favored Panthers, 3-2, as senior catcher Chris Hill drew a bases-loaded walk with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Senior first baseman Nick Sotiros was tabbed the regional’s Most Outstanding Player after hitting .333 with two home runs and five runs batted in.
The Cardinals earned an automatic berth to the NCAA postseason by winning the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Tournament as the top seed. North Central College won four CCIW Tournament games by a combined five runs, including a pair of ninth-inning comeback victories over Augustana College (Ill.) on the final day.
Sotiros, junior third baseman Michael Mateja and Hill spearhead an offense that is hitting .311 on the year. Sotiros has a .347 batting average with a team-high 18 doubles, seven home runs and 60 runs batted in. Mateja, the CCIW Player of the Year, paces the Cardinals with a .414 batting average, 59 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. Hill is hitting .330 with 37 RBIs.
The North Central College pitching staff, which has registered seven shutouts on the year, is led by senior Evan Blunk and sophomore Austin Polezoes. Blunk has a 6-2 record with a team-best 3.17 earned run average while Polezoes is 4-3 with a 3.82 ERA and a team-leading 44 strikeouts.
Ed Mathey is in his second stint as head coach at North Central College. Mathey, who coached for 12 years at NCAA Division I Northern Illinois University, has produced a 291-215-2 record and six conference titles while helming the Cardinals from 1994-2002 and 2015-17.
North Central College, located in downtown Naperville, Ill., is an independent, comprehensive college of the liberal arts and sciences founded in 1861 that offers its approximately 3,000 students more than 55 undergraduate majors and graduate programming in five areas.
Roanoke College defied the odds in punching its first ticket to the World Series.
Before this season, the Maroons had never advanced past their conference tournament, but Roanoke College not only won the six-team Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Tournament as the sixth seed, but the Maroons continued their postseason run by claiming the Danville (Va.) Regional as the bottom-seeded team.
Roanoke College lost its opening game at the ODAC Tournament before winning four consecutive elimination contests. The Maroons then began the six-team Danville Regional with three straight wins. After losing to top-seeded Salisbury University (Md.) in the first regional championship game, Roanoke College clinched its trip to Appleton with a 13-5 drubbing of the Sea Gulls in the winner-take-all title contest.
The best Maroons team in program history becomes the first member of the ODAC since 2005 to reach the World Series.
Roanoke College enters the championship round with a 33-17 record behind an offense that is averaging more than seven runs during its 10-game postseason run.
Freshman outfielder Sam Watson earned Danville Regional Most Outstanding Player laurels after hitting .450 with nine runs batted in over the five games.
Junior outfielder Sean Guida is hitting .343 while leading the Maroons with 54 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Senior third baseman Collier Donald, who is batting .337, paces the squad with five home runs and 43 runs batted in while sophomore shortstop Dean Hermanson is hitting .343 with 12 doubles.
The Roanoke College pitching staff is helmed by senior starter John Ruhlman, who leads the country with 16 starts. Ruhlman has compiled a 6-6 record in nearly 100 innings pitched this season.
Fifth-year Maroons head coach Matt McGuire has guided the team to a 107-88 record, including the program’s first winning season in 2015 and school records for wins in both 2016 and 2017.
Roanoke College is an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college located in the heart of historic Salem, Va. Founded in 1842, Roanoke College is the second-oldest Lutheran-related college in the nation. With its approximately 2,000 full-time students, Roanoke College seeks and welcomes students of all races, creeds, nationalities and ethnic origins.
State University of New York at Oswego
State University of New York at Oswego clinched its first World Series berth with a 9-4 win over the University of Southern Maine as the Lakers never trailed in the Syracuse (N.Y.) Regional final after scoring two runs in the top of the first inning.
The Lakers, who won the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) title for the first time since 1996, were awarded an automatic bid to the NCAA postseason after the league tournament was cancelled due to rain.
Despite an unexpected 19 days off, top-seeded Oswego State opened Syracuse Regional play with three victories by a combined four runs before suffering a 7-6 setback to second-seeded and two-time national champion University of Southern Maine. However, the Lakers responded with 14 hits and seven stolen bases en route to claiming the regional championship.
Hamilton, the two-time reigning SUNYAC Player of the Year, leads the Lakers with a .434 batting average, 40 runs scored, 36 runs batted in and 16 stolen bases. Hamilton earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the Syracuse Regional after going 5-for-5 with two runs batted in during the final game.
Sophomore designated hitter Mike Dellicarri is hitting .352 with a team-leading seven home runs, and senior outfielder Wes Randall is batting .345 and gets on base at a .480 clip.
Oswego State’s pitching staff has produced six shutouts and a 3.41 earned run average. Headlining the Lakers on the mound are senior Tim Cronin and junior Mitchell Cavanagh. Cronin has a 9-1 record with a 2.28 earned run average while Cavanagh is 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA and a team-high 53 strikeouts.
Head coach Scott Landers has guided Oswego State to a 162-81 record and three straight regional trips in his six seasons.
With a student body of 7,100 students, Oswego State is large enough to offer more than 110 programs of study yet small enough for students to form quality relationships with each other and caring faculty. Located on a scenic, 690-acre campus along the shores of Lake Ontario, Oswego State stresses a quality education and experience inside and outside the classroom.
University of Massachusetts Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is back in the final tournament for the second time and first since 2010. The Beacons, who own a program-best 37-10 record, have won 20 of their last 21 games, including all four as the top-seeded hosts of the eight-team Harwich (Mass.) Regional.
UMass Boston slipped past Pennsylvania State University at Berks, 9-8, in 10 innings during the Harwich Regional opener before winning its last three NCAA postseason games by a combined 28-12 score. In the regional final, the Beacons scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull away for an 11-8 victory over fifth-seeded Babson College (Mass.) as senior outfielder Luke Nagle drove in the eventual game-winning run with a one-out single.
The Beacons, who finished second in the Little East Conference standings, went on to win the league’s automatic berth to the national tournament for the second time with an 8-6 triumph over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
UMass Boston sports one of the division’s best pitching staffs, compiling a 3.07 earned run average on the year. Highlighting the Beacons on the mound are senior starting pitcher Matt Tulley and junior relief pitcher Bryan Kaufman.
Tulley has an 8-2 record with a 2.36 earned run average and 71 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched while Kaufman has a 3-0 mark with a 1.08 ERA and four saves.
Helping lead UMass Boston at the plate and on the mound is senior Dan Mantoni, who owns a 6-1 pitching record while collecting 18 doubles and driving in 43 runs.
Junior first baseman Chris Fowler has a team-best six home runs and 46 runs batted in, and Nagle is hitting .388.
Thirteenth-year Beacons head coach Brendan Eygabroat has amassed a 280-256-1 record and led UMass Boston to both of its World Series appearances.
UMass Boston is nationally recognized as a model of excellence for urban public universities. The scenic waterfront campus provides a small-college experience with the vast resources of a major research university. With a growing student body of 17,030 undergraduate and graduate students, UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and schools offer 82 undergraduate programs and 126 graduate programs.
Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College heads to its first World Series with one of the best offenses in the country. The Presidents lead the nation with 575 hits and 451 runs while listing among the top 10 with a .351 batting average, 120 doubles, 49 home runs, a .534 slugging percentage and a .431 on-base percentage.
The Presidents rolled through their first three games as hosts of the Washington (Pa.) Regional by scoring 35 runs and pounding out 46 hits. Fourth-seeded Washington & Jefferson College lost the first regional title tilt by one run to 2015 national champion State University of New York at Cortland, but the Presidents erased a three-run deficit and rallied for a 6-3 victory over the second-seeded Red Dragons in the second championship game.
Washington & Jefferson College, which has a program-best 38 and 11 record, claimed an automatic berth into the NCAA field of 56 teams by winning the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Tournament. The top-seeded Presidents defeated third-seeded Grove City College (Pa.) twice on the final day to clinch their 11th conference crown.
The vaunted Presidents’ offense is led by senior outfielder Nick Vento, the Washington Regional’s Most Outstanding Player, who has a .433 batting average with eight home runs and a team-best 57 runs batted in.
Senior shortstop Nick Gatins is hitting .424 with 18 doubles and six home runs while junior first baseman Mark Merlino is batting .392 with seven homers and 40 runs batted in.
Senior catcher Derek Helbing, the PAC Player of the Year, has produced a .325 batting average and a team-leading 11 home runs.
Senior Riley Groves headlines Washington & Jefferson College on the mound. Groves, the two-time reigning PAC Pitcher of the Year, has a 10-2 record with a 2.02 earned run average in his 13 starts this season.
Head coach Jeff Mountain owns a 425-229-1 record in his 15 seasons at Washington & Jefferson College.
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, has been graduating leaders in every industry for more than two centuries. Founded in 1781, Washington & Jefferson College’s distinct combination of renowned faculty, state of the art facilities, and abundant opportunities for research, internships, and study abroad in a liberal arts setting provide its nearly 1,400 students with the ultimate preparation to achieve their goals and realize their dreams.
Wheaton College clinched its third trip to Appleton by winning a thrilling 1-0 decision during the final game of the York (Pa.) Regional.
The third-seeded Lyons received a six-hit shutout from senior Mike Bruemmel in the title game as Wheaton College claimed a 1-0 lead in the second inning against second-seeded Shenandoah University (Va.), which had two runners aboard in the ninth frame before Bruemmel completed the shutout with a strikeout en route to earning York Regional Most Outstanding Player honors.
Wheaton College, which has a 27-15 record on the season, was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA field after falling twice during the semifinal round of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. The Lyons opened regional play with three straight wins, but their ninth-inning comeback attempt fell one run short against Shenandoah University in the first championship contest.
The Lyons, who advanced to the national championship game in their previous visits to Appleton in 2006 and 2012, strung together 10 straight wins in April before losing six of seven games heading into regional action.
Leading the Wheaton College offense are senior outfielder Zach Goodwin-Boyd, senior shortstop Josh LaJoie, junior second baseman Chris Ruocco and senior catcher Joey Santigate.
Goodwin-Boyd tops the team with a .343 batting average, six home runs and 39 runs batted in. LaJoie is hitting .341 with a team-leading 43 runs scored and 16 doubles while Ruocco has contributed 34 runs scored, and Santigate has a pair of homers and 20 runs batted in.
Bruemmel helps anchor Wheaton College’s pitching staff, compiling a 5-2 record with a team-best 2.91 earned run average.
Eric Podbelski is the only coach in the 21-year history of the Lyons’ program, compiling a 617-250-5 record in 20 varsity seasons. Podbelski has guided Wheaton College to at least 30 wins 12 times, including a program-best 42 victories in 2006.
Wheaton College, founded in 1834, provides a transformative liberal arts education for intellectually curious students in a collaborative, academically vibrant residential community that values a diverse world. Located in rural Norton, Mass., Wheaton College is a private institution with a student body of approximately 1,600.
Welcome to the eight teams vying for the 2017 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship in Appleton.
Major local sponsors for this year’s championship are the Bergstrom Corporation, J. J. Keller Foundation, Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, The Post-Crescent, and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Promotional partners for the World Series are Amusement Devices, Appleton International Airport, Festival Foods, Northwestern Mutual, Rawlings, and Paul and Dawn Roth.