Nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh, back in the national tournament for the 25th time and first since 2008, faces a stern test to begin the 2018 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship as it battles a historically dominant pitching staff from Bethel University (Minn.) on Thursday (May 17) in Duluth, Minn. The opening pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Wade Stadium.
UW-Oshkosh (31-8), ranked seventh in the country by D3baseball.com, received one of 18 at-large berths to the 58-team NCAA Championship late Sunday (May 13) evening after finishing second in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings.
Bethel University (32-9), which will be making its NCAA postseason debut, earned an automatic bid to championship by winning the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament as the second seed.
The Duluth Regional starts with eighth-ranked Concordia University Chicago (Ill.) (33-12) opposing Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.) (23-10) at 11 a.m. Thursday. North Central College (Ill.) (28-12) then faces University of Dubuque (Iowa) (24-15) at 3 p.m.
Competition at the double-elimination Duluth Regional continues with three games on both Friday (May 18) and Saturday (May 19) before the champion is determined Sunday (May 20). Winners of the eight regionals advance to the World Series in Appleton.
Two-time national champion UW-Oshkosh sports a 104-51 record in the NCAA postseason. The Titans, whose 104 victories are tied for fourth in Division III history, won national titles in 1985 and 1994 and produced runner-up efforts in 1987, 1988 and 1993.
Concordia University Chicago is 15-16 in eight prior national tournament appearances, while North Central College owns a 22-19 mark in nine previous trips, which include a third-place result at last year's World Series. Bethany Lutheran College and University of Dubuque join Bethel University in making their first trips to the Division III Championship as automatic qualifiers out of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, respectively.
UW-Oshkosh enters its first NCAA postseason in a decade with one of the top offenses and pitching staffs in the country. The Titans, who have their most wins since 2007, rank eighth nationally in both strikeouts per nine innings (2.59) and ratio of hits plus walks, divided by innings pitched (WHIP) at 1.20.
The Titans also rank 19th in the country in earned run average (3.26) and fielding percentage (.970) while listing ninth in doubles per contest (2.56) and 19th in slugging percentage (.479). UW-Oshkosh, which is hitting .324 and scoring 8.1 runs per game, has collected 100 doubles – the fifth-best total in program history.
Bethel University counters with a pitching staff that leads the nation with a 1.80 earned run average and a 1.04 WHIP ratio. Just eight teams in Division III history have concluded a season with an earned run average at or below 1.80. Marietta College (Ohio) was the last program to accomplish the feat, compiling a 1.74 earned run average on the way to the 2011 national title.
Bethel University pitchers also rank third in Division III in hits per nine innings (7.12), fourth in walks per nine innings (2.28) and shutouts (8), and ninth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.98). The Royals list sixth nationally with a .975 fielding percentage.
Bethel University has compiled a .318 batting average while producing 109 extra-base hits and scoring 6.2 runs per game. The Royals' 0.46 stolen bases per game this year ranks 377th among the 384 Division III teams.
UW-Oshkosh boasts seven starters hitting better than .300.
Senior first baseman Andy Brahier paces the Titans with a .437 batting average, a .681 slugging percentage and a .485 on-base percentage. Brahier, who became the 11th Titan to reach 200 career hits in early May, has recorded at least one hit in 22 of his last 24 games, which include 16 multiple-hit performances since April 11.
Senior outfielder Logan Reckert is hitting .415 for UW-Oshkosh while junior catcher Taylor Grimm is batting .355, junior infielder Dylan Ott .351, junior infielder Jonathan Selchow .341, junior outfielder Alex Koch .333 and junior outfielder Zack Radde .301.
Grimm leads the squad with 55 hits, 45 runs, 17 doubles, seven home runs, 51 runs batted in and 93 total bases. Koch also has seven home runs to go along with 40 RBIs.
Three Titans have at least 12 stolen bases on the season as senior shortstop Jack Paulson has a team-leading 17 while junior outfielder Sam Schwenn and Ott have added 14 and 12, respectively. Paulson has also drawn a team-high 31 walks and scored 40 runs.
Treml has a 9-0 record with a 2.28 earned run average and 70 strikeouts in 79 innings pitched. McLees is 8-2 with a 2.72 earned run average and 56 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. Treml ranks 13th nationally in wins. McLees lists 16th with a 0.92 WHIP ratio.
Rounding out UW-Oshkosh's pitching rotation are seniors Jesse Sustachek and Lucas Gregory, and sophomore Jon Maday. Sustachek is 4-2 with a 3.65 earned run average, Gregory is 4-3 with a 4.08 earned run average and Maday is 4-1 with a 3.26 earned run average.
The Titans are led by fifth-year head coach Kevin Tomasiewicz, who owns a 115-85-1 record. Tomasiewicz notched his 100th coaching victory following a 9-5 decision over UW-Platteville on April 21.
Bethel University's stellar pitching staff features 12 contributors – none of whom has an earned run average above 3.52.
Royals ace Michael Bohlke, a junior, has a 5-1 record with a 2.11 earned run average while striking out 52 in 64 innings pitched.
Senior Noah Luedtke is 5-0 with a 2.11 earned run average and 43 strikeouts in 47 innings. Just six of his 32 hits allowed have gone for extra bases.
The Royals also feature starters in seniors David Cushing and Carson Selin, sophomore Connor Malcolm and freshman Sam Riola, who have combined for a 14-7 record and a 1.64 earned run average in nearly 140 total innings. Royals sophomore closer Jake Marsh ranks 10th in the country with nine saves while allowing two runs across 28.2 innings.
Junior outfielder Sam Horner sparks the Royals offense from atop the batting order, leading the team with a .369 batting average, 55 hits, 39 runs, four stolen bases and a .451 on-base percentage.
The Royals get production throughout their lineup as nine players have scored at least 14 runs and driven in 15 or more.
Bethel University senior designated hitter John Leach (.363), sophomore third baseman Joey Fredrickson (.348), senior catcher Austin Ledin (.336), senior outfielder Michael Wesner (.322), sophomore first baseman Bo Lovdahl (.311) and sophomore outfielder Mitch Butvilas (.303) are all hitting better than .300 on the year. Ledin leads the team with 10 doubles, nine home runs, 36 RBIs and a .642 slugging percentage.
Concordia University Chicago is batting .308 and scoring 7.6 runs per game this season. The Cougars, who qualified for last year's World Series, rank fourth in the nation with 137 stolen bases and ninth with 492 hits. Defensively, they have turned 41 double plays – 15th-best in the country – and rank 17th by allowing just 8.04 hits per nine innings.
The Cougar offense is led by senior outfielder Joe Silva, senior first baseman Andrew Massey and junior shortstop Jose Mercado.
Silva paces the team with a .392 batting average, 74 hits, 53 runs and 16 doubles. Massey is batting .373 with a team-high 44 runs batted in while Mercado has 34 stolen bases in 40 attempts.
Concordia University Chicago's deep pitching staff has produced a 3.57 earned run average and held opponents to a .239 batting average. Senior reliever Mike Formella, who has appeared in 22 games this season and leads the nation with 14 saves, is second on the team with 54.2 innings pitched despite not making a start.
North Central College enters the regional with one of the top offenses in Division III, ranking seventh in hits (496), eighth in scoring (.93) and slugging percentage (.500), 10th in batting average (.342), and 11th in doubles (101).
Cardinals junior third baseman Michael Mateja is batting .444 with 67 hits, 51 runs, 20 doubles, a .709 slugging percentage and a .534 on-base percentage. He ranks seventh in the country in doubles, 14th in on-base percentage and 19th in batting average.
North Central College sophomore outfielder Mike Wisz, a transfer from Division I University of Houston (Texas), leads the country with 72 runs batted in while listing fifth with 123 total bases and seventh with 20 doubles. Wisz is hitting .417 and slugging .732.
Senior Russell Hoh helms a Cardinals pitching staff that sports a 4.78 earned run average and allows opponents to hit .280. Hoh is 6-0 with a 3.45 earned run average and 35 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched.
University of Dubuque is hitting .314 and scoring 7.1 runs per game while amassing just nine home runs this season. The Spartan pitching staff leads the country by issuing just two walks per nine innings, ranks second with a 3.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio and lists sixth with a 1.20 WHIP ratio.
Highlighting the formidable University of Dubuque staff on the mound is junior Chase Kueter, who owns a 7-4 record with a 2.25 earned run average and 75 strikeouts against eight walks in 88 innings. He ranks fourth nationally in WHIP ratio (0.82), seventh in complete games (6) and 12th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.38).
Spartans junior relief pitcher Nathan Schneiderman is 18th in the country with eight saves.
Offensively, University of Dubuque junior outfielder Jarad Clevinger is hitting a team-best .360 while senior third baseman Dalton Garst has 37 runs and senior catcher Will Doherty is leading the way with three home runs, 35 runs batted in and a .519 slugging percentage.
Bethany Lutheran College is fourth in the nation with a .448 on-base percentage and 12th with nine runs per game. The Vikings also list 17th in the country with a .336 batting average and 18th with 0.88 home runs per game.
Leading the Vikings at the plate are freshman outfielder Ross Beumer with a .386 batting average, junior third baseman Ben Boran at .378 and sophomore first baseman Grant Becher at .374. The trio is among eight Viking starters who reach base at better than a .420 rate. Ten different Vikings have launched home runs this year, including junior catcher Nick Caldeen with a team-high seven.
On the mound, the Vikings have produced a 4.51 earned run average and 234 strikeouts across 255.2 innings. Senior Cody Leitner leads the way with a 3-2 record and a 3.68 earned run average and 43 strikeouts in 51.1 innings pitched.
UW-Oshkosh owns a 13-2 all-time record against programs at the Duluth Regional. The Titans won both of their two prior games with Bethel University, sweeping a doubleheader over the Royals by a combined 7-2 score to open the 2008 season. UW-Oshkosh is also 6-0 against University of Dubuque, 3-0 versus North Central College, and 1-1 against both Bethany Lutheran College and Concordia University Chicago.