Hard-hitting teams coming to Suplizio
Two things are certain in the NCAA Central Regional baseball tournament: the six teams bring powerhouse offenses and are playing in a hitter-friendly park.
The tournament field includes four of the top five hitting teams in the nation.
Mesa State is the best hitting team in the nation with a .380 average. New Mexico Highlands is second at .378, Colorado State-Pueblo is third with a .373 average and Southwest Minnesota State is fifth at .360.
Four of the top nine teams in the nation in scoring are in the region as well with Mesa, CSU-Pueblo, Highlands and Wayne State (Neb.). The Wildcats are fifth in the nation with 85 home runs.
“There are some good hitting teams coming to a hitter-friendly park,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “Especially as the temperatures warm up that park becomes more friendly. Whoever pitches it the best has the best chance.”
The double-elimination tournament begins with Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season champion and 26th-ranked Wayne State playing No. 30 N.M. Highlands at noon today at Suplizio Field. No. 25 Minnesota State-Mankato plays Southwest Minnesota State at 3:30 p.m. and 29th-ranked Mesa State hosts CSU-Pueblo at 7 p.m.
“What we found last week, the pitchers are better now,” Highlands coach Steve Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be as offensive as we expect it to be. We start so darn early, I think the pitchers are behind, which is unusual. I know the RMAC teams will score runs, but it may be in the later days of the tournament.
“At our level, the teams that have depth with pitching are the teams that are going to win. I don’t know how (the Northern Sun teams) pitching is, but they don’t pitch at 6,000 feet. Their kids are going to come in here and have to make adjustments. They’re coming in with some good hitting teams too. Wayne has 85 home runs and that’s not at altitude. I still think the team that comes out of here is the team that holds up pitching wise the best.”
Wayne State coach John Manganaro agreed.
“We better pitch it and play defense,” he said. “We better keep the ball down, because these guys are going to swing it. When it comes to outscoring, we may be at a disadvantage because of our physical size. We’re not a very big team. We don’t have a lot of size, but we can play baseball.”