FLORENCE, S.C. – The eighth-ranked Francis Marion University baseball team learned early Monday morning that it has earned a bid to the NCAA Division II national tournament. The Patriots will play in the four-team South Atlantic Regional, Thursday through Saturday, in Jacksonville, Fla.
The 32-team tournament field consists of eight four-team regionals. Each regional is a double-elimination event, and the eight regional winners will advance to the 38th NCAA Division II World Series, May 28 through June 4, in Montgomery, Ala.
FMU (34-14-1) is the third seed in the South Atlantic Regional and will face second-seeded Kennesaw State University (35-20) on Thursday at 1 p.m. Top-seeded and host University of North Florida (41-14) will play fourth-seeded USC Aiken (39-17) in the other first-round match-up, Thursday at 7 p.m. The games will be played at the 1,000-seat Harmon Stadium on the campus of UNF.
Thursday’s two losers will meet Friday at 11 a.m., while the two winners will play at 3 p.m. The winner of Friday’s 11 a.m. game will play the loser of the 3 p.m. contest, Friday at 7 p.m. The championship game is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Francis Marion is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance, and second in three years. The Patriots placed second at the 1993 South Atlantic Regional in Aiken, S.C., and FMU finished third at the 2003 regional in Jacksonville.
Kennesaw State is making its 10th appearance in the Division II tournament appearance and North Florida its ninth, but it will be their final trips as both schools will move to Division I affiliation next year. USCA is making its third tournament appearance, but its first since 1993.
FMU posted a 3-6 mark against the three other teams in the regional, dropping three games to KSU by a combined total of five runs, and going 2-1 against USCA and 1-2 versus UNF. However, FMU ended the season with a six-game winning streak and is 15-9-1 in its last 25 games against nationally ranked opponents.
Francis Marion’s 34 victories is the second-highest season total in team history, and is the squad’s second 30-win season in the past three years, and the program’s seventh all-time.
With a 17-12-1 conference mark, the Patriots placed third in the Peach Belt Conference standings, one-and-a-half games behind second-place KSU. North Florida won the PBC crown with a 23-7 conference mark, while USCA was fourth at 16-14. The top seed has failed to win the South Atlantic Regional each of the past three years.
For the third time in four years, the Peach Belt earned all four region berths. There are no automatic bids, and the PBC, the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference (CVAC), and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) are the three conferences that make up the region.
Fans can follow the action from all of the regional games at http://unfospreys.collegesports.com/