FLORENCE, SC – Francis Marion University learned on Sunday evening that it has earned an at-large berth in the 2011 NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament and will be the second seed at this week’s Southeast Regional. The six-team, double-elimination tournament will played Thursday through Sunday (May 19-22) and hosted by Mount Olive College on the Trojan’s Scarborough Field.
Francis Marion, ranked ninth in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II Top 30 poll, owns a 37-14 record and will face fifth-seeded and 18th-ranked Catawba College (40-13) on Thursday at 3 p.m.
Thursday’s two other opening-round games will have top-seeded and second-ranked Mount Olive (41-7) playing sixth-seeded Wingate University (34-20) at 7 p.m. and third-seeded and 10-ranked UNC Pembroke (42-10) meeting fourth-seeded and 14th-ranked Columbus State University (32-17) at 11 a.m.
The regional winner advances to the Division II World Series, May 28-June 4, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The University of Southern Indiana is the defending national champion, while Mount Olive won the 2008 title and CSU was the 2002 national champion. FMU took part in the 2006 World Series.
If FMU wins its opening game, the Patriots will play the UNCP/CSU winner on Friday at 7 p.m., while a Patriot loss to Catawba would place FMU in the losers’ bracket against the Mount Olive/Wingate loser on Friday at 11 a.m.
This will be Francis Marion’s seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament, third in a row, and sixth in the past nine seasons. Head coach Art Inabinet guided the 2010 Patriot squad to a 40-14 mark and FMU hosted the Southeast Regional for the first time in school history. Francis Marion lost in last year’s regional title game.
The 48-team NCAA Division II National Tournament field was released late Sunday (May 15) night. The tournament consists of eight regionals. Nineteen teams, including UNCP (Peach Belt Conference), Mount Olive (Conference Carolinas), and Wingate (South Atlantic Conference), earned automatic berths by winning their conference titles. Francis Marion received one of the 29 at-large invitations.
The Patriots were 3-2 during the regular season against teams in the regional tournament. FMU is 3-4 all-time against Catawba, including a 3-2 victory over the Indians in last year’s regional.