For the second straight season and the 12th time in school history, the University of North Alabama baseball team has been selected to compete in the NCAA Division II Baseball South Regional Tournament.
UNA, 39-16 overall, is one eight teams that will compete in the 2012 South Regional in Tampa, Fla., from May 17-21. The Lions are joined in the regional by top-seed and host Tampa, Delta State, Lynn, Nova Southeastern, Alabama-Huntsville, West Florida and Stillman.
"We were a little anxious but now we're in the tournament and everything starts new," said UNA head coach Mike Keehn, who will be taking his second straight squad to the NCAA Tournament. Keehn was anxious because despite being ranked fourth in the regional poll entering the Gulf South Conference Tournament and going 3-2 and reaching the tournament semifinal, the Lions dopped to seventh in last week's poll. "We were obviously surprised that we had played well and won three games and then somehow dropped in the rankings by winning. But everything starts from scratch now," he said.
As the seventh seed, UNA will face second seeded Delta State in a first round game on May 17 with the time to be determined. The other first round matchups have Lynn (34-13) playing Alabama-Huntsville (31-22), Tampa (38-8) hosting Stillman (29-16) amd West Florida (34-17) facing Nova Southeastern (33-13).
The Lions lost to Delta State 4-0 last Tuesday in the semifinals of the Gulf South Conference Tournament in Rome, Ga., but UNA is 3-0 all-time against the Statesmen in NCAA Tournament play.
In the 2011 South Regional, North Alabama won its first two games against Southern Arkansas and Harding before falling to West Florida and Barry to finish 2-2.
UNA has competed in NCAA regionals in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2011 and is 13-20 all-time in regional play. The first 10 post-season NCAA trips were under Mike Lane. This is UNA's second straight trip under Mike Keehn.
The Lions won the 1999 South Regional and advanced to the Division II World Series. Should the 2012 UNA squad advance, it would be to play at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., from May 26-June 2.