HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – For the first time in 11 years, the University of Alabama in Huntsville baseball team has earned a berth to the 2012 NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament. The Chargers will compete at the South Regional, hosted by the University of Tampa at the UT Baseball Field, which runs from May 17-21 in Tampa, Fla.
Making its fifth appearance, and first since four straight berths from 1998-2001, UAH (31-22) enters the tournament as the No. 6 seed. The Chargers will square off against a familiar foe from earlier this season as the squad faces third-seeded Lynn (34-13) on Thursday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. CT.
Lynn swept the Chargers in a four-game series earlier this season in Boca Raton, Fla., to drop UAH to 1-4 all-time against Lynn. UAH's lone victory over the Fighting Knights came by a score of 12-4 in the 2004 season opener at a neutral site in Jacksonville, Fla. Earlier this season, Lynn won games one and three of the four-game series by scores of 7-1 and 6-4, respectively, while needing extra innings to defeat UAH on walk-off runs in games two and four, 3-2 and 10-9, respectively.
UAH is 88-99 all-time against the 2012 NCAA South Regional field, including a mark of 9-11 when facing members of the field this season.
UAH will be looking for it's first-ever NCAA Division II World Series berth this week, but will have to navigate its way through arguably the toughest region in the nation – the only region with eight teams. Two of the last three, and four of the last six, national champions are in this week's field, including the current No. 1-ranked Tampa Spartans. West Florida won last year's national title, while Lynn won in 2009, and Tampa claimed the championship in 2006 and 2007.
In addition, five of the eight teams in this year's field are either ranked or receiving votes in the most recent Collegiate Baseball Top 30 poll. No. 1-seed Tampa is ranked first overall, while No. 3-seed Lynn ranks ninth, No. 2-seed Delta State follows in 10th and No. 7-seed North Alabama comes in at 23rd. No. 5-seed Nova Southeastern is receiving votes in the poll.
Historically, the Chargers are 6-8 in NCAA Division II regional play. UAH turned in its best regional performance in it's first-ever trip in 1998, when the Blue and White advanced to the semifinals before falling to West Georgia, 6-1.
UAH finished the regular season with the Gulf South Conference's second-best league record of 15-9, and earned the No. 3 seed for tournament play after tiebreakers. The Chargers' 15 wins in conference play this year are the second-most in school history, coming just one shy of the program-record 16 wins set in 1999 and 2000. Additionally, UAH has surpassed the 30-win mark this season to accumulate the most victories (31) in a single season since the 2004 season when the squad finished with 36 wins.
The Chargers recently concluded play in the GSC Tournament in Rome, Ga., where the team made a run to the championship game before falling to top-seeded Delta State, 14-8 – a team UAH beat earlier in the tournament by a score of 8-4. Win or lose against Lynn, however, and UAH could very well get a rematch with DSU in the second round, or face rival North Alabama for the fifth time this season.
UAH had three Chargers named to the GSC All-Tournament team at the conclusion of the conference tournament. Mike Love led the Chargers at the plate throughout the tournament by hitting at a .611 (11-for-18) clip with three doubles, five RBI and seven runs scored. Ty Chancelor batted .304 (7-for-23) with a home run and four RBI, while Justin Riddle went .294 (5-for-17) in the tournament with a homer, two doubles and four RBI.
As a team, UAH is hitting .303 on the year, including a .344 clip with 11 home runs, 35 doubles and 108 RBI in the squad's past 13 games. The Chargers are averaging 6.3 runs on 9.6 hits per game, while the pitching staff is limiting opponents to just 3.9 runs on 8.7 hits per outing, with a 3.56 ERA.
Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since claiming the 2009 national championship, Lynn has won 13 of its last 15 games and is one of just two teams this year to take two games from top-ranked Tampa.
As a team, the Fighting Knights are hitting at .308, paced by Anthony Boza's .406 average, 13 home runs, 18 doubles and 50 RBI. Boza batted .750 against UAH earlier this year, including four homers and nine RBI. While averaging 5.8 runs on 10 hits per contest, offensively, Lynn's pitching staff is allowing just 3.7 runs on 8.4 hits per outing, and carries a 3.38 ERA.
All tournament contests will be streamed live on Tampa's website, and live stats will be available through Tampa's platform as well. The links can be found on the tournament website: http://tampaspartans.com/page.asp?articleID=3660
Salmon Library on the UAH campus will host a free and open to the public viewing party on Thursday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. CT as the UAH baseball team competes at the NCAA South Regional against Lynn. The viewing party will be held in the Library Study Area/Coffee Shop in Salmon Library.
The winner of the UAH and Lynn matchup will next face the winner of the No. 2-seed Delta State and No. 7-seed North Alabama contest at 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday, May 18. The losers of the respective games will play in the first elimination game Friday, May 18, at 9 a.m. CT.