Dixie State faces familiar foe in first game of NCAA tourney

Dixie State's Dylan File (33), file photo from Dixie State University vs. Saint Martins University, Baseball, St. George, Utah, Feb. 18, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

AZUSA, Calif. – Dixie State received its sixth straight invitation to the NCAA Division II tournament this past week. That is the current longest streak in the West Region. The Trailblazers will start the tournament Thursday night with a game against UC-San Diego. They have a 2-1 all-time record against the Tritons. All of their games have come in the NCAA tournament. Chico State drew the No. 1-seed, but PacWest rival Azusa Pacific will host the tournament due to scheduling conflicts at Chico State. Below are capsules and analysis for Thursday’s games.

First Game: CALIFORNIA BAPTIST (No.5-seed) v. AZUSA PACIFIC (No. 2-seed) Thursday, 11 a.m. Pacific Time

LANCERS (34-16)
Bid: Automatic; Won Pacific West Season Championship
Record Against Region Field: 4-4
Record Against Tournament Field: 6-6
Team BA: .291
Team ERA: 3.86
Team Fielding %: .966
Key Players: John Glenn (.329 BA, .497 slg, .356 ob) Bryce Macy (.313 BA, .472 slg, .373 ob), Luke Navigato (.298 BA, .404 slg, .411 ob)
Key Pitchers: Garett King (2.33 ERA, 7-1), Logan Rinehart (5.61 ERA, 4-4), Andrew Bash (3.74 ERA, 5-4)

COUGARS (40-10)
Bid: At Large, Finished Third in Pacific West Conference
Record Against Region Field: 3-5
Record Against Tournament Field: 4-5
Team BA: .309
Team ERA: 2.93
Team Fielding %: .972
Key Players: Pablo O’Connor (.397 BA, .772 slg, .459 ob), Adrian Tovalin (.369 BA, .760 slg, .443 ob), Michael Staudinger (.357 BA, .631 slg, .421 ob), Cam Bennett (.348 BA, .494 slg, .417 ob), Justin Gomez (.323 BA, .497 slg, .441 ob)
Key Pitchers: Michael Fairchild (2.16 ERA, 8-1), Billy Oxford (2.82 ERA, 10-1), Kale Morton (3.55 ERA, 6-0)

On paper, this does not look like much of a contest for Azusa Pacific, the PacWest champions. But Cal Baptist won the season series 3-1. The Cougars outmatch CBU in batting, fielding and pitching. APU also has home-field advantage.

Second Game: CAL POLY POMONA (No. 6-seed) v. CHICO STATE (No. 1-seed) Thursday, 3 p.m. Pacific Time

BRONCOS
Bid: At Large, Finished Second in the California Collegiate Athletic Association
Record Against Region Field: 5-5
Record Against Tournament Field: 5-5
Team BA: .311
Team ERA: 4.16
Team Fielding %: .963
Key Players: 3B Jason Padlo (.408 BA, .525 slg, .478 ob), RF Daniel Pitts (.378 BA, .644 slg, .448 ob), C Cody Martin (.342 BA, .425 slg, .418 ob), 1B Nic Hernandez (.335 BA, .500 slg, .394 ob), SS Chris Stratton (.326 BA, .391 slg, .371 ob)
Key Pitchers: Jeff Bain (3.32 ERA, 8-2), Henry Omana (2.41 ERA, 6-5), Kyle Dohy (5.33 ERA, 6-2)

WILDCATS
Bid: Automatic, Won California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament
Record Against Region Field: 5-4
Record Against Tournament Field: 5-4
Team BA: .314
Team ERA: 3.41
Team Fielding %: .984
Key Players: 3B Cameron Santos (.372 BA, .525 slg, .468 ob), LF Josh Falco (.356 BA, .511 slg, .451 ob), DH Dillon Kelley (.343 BA, .552 slg, .429 ob), RF Cody Snider (.342 BA, .495 slg, .408 ob), CF Sonny Cortez (.333 BA, .398 slg, .451 ob)
Key Pitchers: Casey Costello (2.38 ERA, 12-0), Cam Greenough (2.65 ERA, 8-1), Hunter Haworth (2.54 ERA, 7-1)

Another game that on paper favors the higher seeded team, Chico. But the three teams representing the CCAA split their games with the other teams. Chico did win the conference tournament however and have that experience to draw on. Cal Poly Pomona won last year. Both teams have a chance to make noise.

Third Game: UC-SAN DIEGO (No 4-seed) v. DIXIE STATE (No 3-seed)
Thursday, 7 p.m. Pacific Time

TRITONS
Bid: At Large, Finished Third in the California Collegiate Athletic Association
Record Against Region Field: 5-6
Record Against Tournament Field: 5-6
Team BA: .314
Team ERA: 3.82
Team Fielding %: .973
Key Players: 1B Tyler Durna (.376 BA, .590 slg, .471 ob), RF Jack Larsen (.354 BA, .672 slg, .484 ob), CF Brandon Shirley (.338 BA, .467 slg, .408 ob), DH Alex Eliopulos (.324 BA, .488 slg, .376 ob)
Key Pitchers: Adrian Orozco (3.09 ERA, 8-0), Preston Mott (3.82 ERA, 7-4), Kyle Goodbrand (2.73 ERA, 4-0)

TRAILBLAZERS
Bid: At Large, Finished Second in the Pacific West Conference
Record Against Region Field: 5-3
Record Against Tournament Field: 6-6
Team BA: .343
Team ERA: 3.70
Team Fielding %: .972
Key Players: 2B/OF Drew McLaughlin (.401 BA, .541 slg, .472 ob),OF Trey Kamachi (.394 BA, .523 slg, .458 ob), 1B Logan Porter (.387 BA, .630 slg, .493 ob), 3B/2B Tyler Mildenberg (.379 BA, .569 slg, .449 ob), 3B/SS Bryce Feist (.359 BA, .476 slg, .404 ob)
Key Pitchers: Mason Hilty (2.83 ERA, 9-3), Dylan File (3.52, 8-1) Matt Mosca (6-2, 3.84)

The only matchup that showcases teams from separate conferences. Dixie State is seeded third but has the most potent offense. With just two weeks remaining, four separate players were batting above .400. Untimely errors have hurt them in the season. They should be able to put up big numbers against the Triton pitching.

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