The 2011 NCAA Division 1 Baseball Championship begin today. Four local teams will take the field as they attempt to advance and continue their seasons. Princeton and Seton Hall come out of New Jersey while St. John’s and Manhattan will represent New York. Each of the four teams has a tough road ahead but as they have shown of late, anything can happen.
The Regionals are the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and consists of 64 teams spread across 16 sites. Each respective regional uses a double elimination format in the opening round. The winner of each region moves on to a Super Regional. We take a look at the four area teams in this years tournament…
Manhattan College may have the toughest first game challenge. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions will have the Florida Gators on Friday at 4pm. Florida is the #2 National Seed entering the tournament and have gone 45-16 this season. Manhattan enters the tournament with a very respectable record of 34-17 but play in a much smaller conference than that of the Gators.
This will be the Jaspers third trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history but just the second time in 54 years. Their last appearance came in 2006. That year, Manhattan advanced to the Regional Finals after beating #6 Nebraska and Cornhuskers starter and current New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain.
Senior outfielder Mike McCann leads a solid lineup that batted .289 as a team this season. McCann, from Belle Harbor, New York, hit a team high .365. He is in the top five of every major hitting category for Manhattan. Chad Salem, a senior from Rye, NY leads the team with nine home runs and 50 RBI’s.
The Jaspers are not a team with tremendous power but they have five guys who hit over .300 this season.
On the mound, John Soldinger is the ace of the staff. The sophomore from Bay Shore, NY has a record of 10-2 this season with an ERA of just 2.34. The right-hander has made 13 starts this season and completed six of them. Opposing batters are hitting just .219 against him.Eric Luksis (7-3, 3.47) and Mike Giordano (8-2, 3.92) are the other top starters. Luksis is a sophomore from Wappingers Falls, NY while Giordano is a junior from Bedford, NY.
In all, Manhattan’s roster has 25 players from the state of New York.
Miami and Jacksonville are also in the Gainesville Regional.
St. John’s is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fouth time in five years. The Big East school earned an at-large bid into this years tournament after falling to Seton Hall in the conference championship. The Red Storm is 35-20 on the year and enters the Charlottesville Regional as the No. 3 seed. St. John’s first game will be against second seeded East Carolina.
This is the 33rd overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament for St. John’s.
The Red Storm roster has 16 players from New York and three from New Jersey. Joe Panik, a junior shortstop from Hopewell Junction, New York is one of the leaders on this years team. Panik was recently named to the Third Team Capital One Academic All-American Team and a Third Team Louisville Slugger All-American selection.
Virginia and Navy join the Red Storm and East Carolina in the the region. Virginia is the top seed and host school.
The Seton Hall Pirates earned the Big East Conference’s automatic bid after defeating St. John’s in the conference championship game. This is the Pirates third conference title but first since 2001. Seton Hall has a 33-23 record this season. The Pirates are a hot team right now, winners of 13 of their last 15 games. They are currently riding a season long eight game winning streak.
The Pirates are the No. 3 seed in the College Station Regional and will play No. 2 seed Arizona in their first game, today. Texas A&M is the host school and will play Wright St.
Senior right handed pitcher Joe DiRocco is easily the ace of the staff. The East Hanover, New Jersey native has been carrying this team on his back. He is 8-1 on the year with a very impressive 1.68 ERA. DiRocco has struck out 78 batters in 112.2 innings.
Mike Genovese does it all for Seton Hall. The sophomore from Livingston, New Jersey is second on the team with a .290 batting average. When in the field, Genovese usually plays the infield. He also helps out on the mound for the Pirates. Genovese has pitched in 15 games this season, totally 17.1 innings. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
Pitching will be a major factor for the Pirates. This is not a team that does a ton of damage with their bats. They do not have a player hitting over .300 and as a team have only hit 13 home runs all season.
Defense and pitching will determine how far the Pirates go.
Seton Hall has five players from New York and 24 from their home state of New Jersey.
The first team to qualify for this years tournament was the Princeton Tigers. The New Jersey school won their seventh Ivy League title by defeating Dartmouth in a best of three series. This will be the Tigers 11th NCAA appearance but first since 2006. After a very slow 3-13 start to the season, Princeton ran right through the Ivy League schedule. The Tigers went 15-5 against league opponents and enter the tournament just over .500 at 23-22 overall.
To advance in the tournament, Princeton will need to get over their struggles away from home. The Tigers are just 13-16 on the road and 0-2 on neutral fields this season. They went 2-4 against teams in this years NCAA field.
Princeton enters the Austin Regional as the No. 4 seed and will face top seed and host school, Texas. The Longhorns are the #7 overall national seed and bring the nations best pitching staff. Princeton however has a better team batting average and has hit more home runs this year.
Texas native Zak Hermans will take the mound for Princeton against Texas. Hermans has a 5-1 record this season to go along with his 2.85 ERA. Princeton actually has three players from the state of Texas on its roster. The other two are Chad Ohlendorf and Alex Flink. Ohlendorf is the brother of former New York Yankees and current Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Russ Ohlendorf.
Princeton has two players from New York and three from New Jersey.
The Tigers have four players batting over .300, and Sam Mulroy leads the team with a .324 average. The Junior also leads the team in doubles (11), home runs (7), runs batted in (39), slugging percentage (.547) and stolen bases (13). Mulroy sees time at catcher and in the outfield.
Mike Ford from Belle Mead, New Jersey has started all 45 of Princeton’s games this season. Ford is one of the players that does double duty. While playing the infield, Ford is batting .299 with nine doubles, three home runs and 30 RBI’s. On the mound, the right-hander is 5-3 with a 3.98 ERA. Ford leads the team with four complete games in 10 total starts.
Joining Texas and Princeton in the Austin Regional are Texas State and Kent State.