FLORENCE, SC – Francis Marion University learned on Sunday evening that it has earned an at-large berth in the 2012 NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament and will be the fourth seed at this week’s Southeast Regional. The six-team, double-elimination tournament will played Thursday through Sunday (May 17-20) and hosted for the second straight year by Mount Olive College on the Trojan’s Scarborough Field.
Francis Marion, ranked sixth in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II Top 30 poll, owns a 37-16 record and will face a familiar foe in third-seeded and 11th-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State University (40-14) on Thursday at 3 p.m.
Thursday’s two other opening-round games will have top-seeded and fourth-ranked Mount Olive (44-8) playing sixth-seeded and 30th-ranked Lander University (37-18) at 7 p.m. and second-seeded and second-ranked Tusculum College (46-8) meeting fifth-seeded and 19th-ranked Catawba College (39-14) at 11 a.m.
The regional winner advances to the Division II World Series, May 26-June 2, at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The University of West Florida won the 2011 national title, while Mount Olive was the 2008 national champion. FMU took part in the 2006 World Series.
This will be Francis Marion’s eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament, fourth in a row, and seventh in the past 10 seasons. Head coach Art Inabinet has guided the Patriots to the regional title game each of the past two seasons, including 2010 when FMU hosted the Southeast Regional for the first time in school history. Inabinet is in his 12th year as head coach at FMU with a record of 410-224-2 and in his 14th year as a four-year collegiate coach with a 494-278-2 mark.
The 48-team NCAA Division II National Tournament field was released late Sunday (May 13) night. The tournament consists of eight regionals. Nineteen teams, including Armstrong (Peach Belt Conference), Mount Olive (Conference Carolinas), and Tusculum (South Atlantic Conference), earned automatic berths by winning their conference titles. Francis Marion received one of the 29 at-large invitations.
The Patriots were 9-3 during the regular season against teams in the regional tournament. FMU won three of five games this season against Armstrong, and the two teams split a pair of games this past weekend at the PBC Tournament. FMU is 33-36 all-time against the Pirates.