The University of Charleston and West Virginia State University baseball teams begin play in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament this week at Segra Field at the Welch Athletic Complex in Charleston.
The five-team double-elimination tournament is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. Winners of eight regionals advance to the Division II College World Series June 5-12 in Cary, North Carolina.
Tournament host UC (31-11) earned a No. 5 seed and will face No. 4 seed and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champion Bloomsburg (23-16) at 11 a.m. Thursday at 11 a.m.
“We’re honored to be able to host [the tournament],” UC coach Robbie Britt said. “It’s going to be really competitive, it’s great for our community. As far as our team goes, I’m just looking for them to compete with composure. If we execute, then we’ll have a chance to be really successful when it’s all said and done.”
WVSU (32-8) stormed back from the losers bracket to claim the Mountain East Conference tournament championship and earn an automatic regional berth last week in Beckley. The Yellow Jackets defeated Concord twice to wrap up the tournament title.
The Yellow Jackets received a No. 3 seed and will face off against No. 2 seed Millersville (28-13) at 3 p.m. Thursday.
UC VS. BLOOMSBURG
UC has a formidable opponent in Bloomsburg. The Huskies are batting .289 as a team with a .902 OPS while opponents have a .275 average with an .822 OPS off their pitching. BU has outscored its opponents 257-238.
“They’re hot right now,” Britt said. “I think Coach [Mike] Collins does a tremendous job with his group of getting them to play in tournament baseball. They’re gonna have some arms, they’re gonna have power. For us, we have to sort of negate that defensively.”
Carter Chasanov is Bloomsburg’s largest offensive threat as the redshirt junior outfielder has a batting average of .353 with an OPS of 1.031. He’s started all 39 games for the Huskies and has 48 hits, eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 136 at-bats.
For UC, redshirt junior outfielder Hayden Cartt’s offensive numbers are stellar. Cartt is hitting .372 with an OPS of 1.148 and a slugging percentage of .702. He has 35 hits, eight home runs and 35 RBIs in 94 at-bats for the Golden Eagles.
Pitching is a bit of a weak spot for the Huskies, as they have a team ERA of 6.66. UC has a team ERA of 3.93.
STATE RETURNS TO REGIONAL
Until this season, the Yellow Jackets hadn’t made it to a regional since 2015, when they lost to the PSAC’s Millersville — the same Millersville they’ll be facing on Thursday.
The Marauders, on the other hand, are no stranger to regional play.
Millersville has played in the regional each season since 2013 and in nine of the last 10, winning the regional in 2011 and 2016.
Offensively, the Marauders are led by sophomore outfielder Bren Taylor. Taylor is hitting .399 on the year with an OPS of 1.104 and a slugging percentage of .601. In 143 at-bats this season, Taylor has 57 hits, three home runs, 35 RBIs and has scored 43 runs.
For the Yellow Jackets, Michael Stone is hitting .369 with an OPS of .878. The junior utility player has 41 hits and 17 RBIs in 111 at-bats this season. Matt Harrison is another WVSU slugger to watch. Harrison is hitting .361 with an OPS of 1.211 and a .729 slugging percentage. In his 133 at-bats this season, he has 48 hits and leads the team in RBIs and home runs with 43 and 13, respectively.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
As host of the tournament, the Golden Eagles have home field advantage. Britt acknowledged this but is by no means complacent because his team is on its own turf.
“It’s great to be able to sleep in your own bed and it’s nice to play in a ball park that you’re familiar with,” he said. “But at the same point in time, every team that’s here at this point is some of the best teams in the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing here or across the country, you gotta compete.”
This is the first time since 2006 that an NCAA regional has been played in the state of West Virginia. West Virginia State served as host that year. Britt said he is very happy his team and program are playing host to this year’s tournament.
“Obviously we’re extremely excited to have the opportunity to host,” Britt said. “A lot of people have had their hands on this vision for a long time. When they built the Welch Athletic Complex [hosting a regional] was the whole vision. I don’t think anybody thought it would happen this quickly but it’s a credit to so many people for buying into that vision.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about Mayor Goodwin and the city of Charleston and them allowing us to have an event like this.”