MAGNOLIA -- The Southern Arkansas baseball team will host an NCAA regional tournament for the second time in program history this week.
The Muleriders (32-16) learned Sunday night on the NCAA Division II Baseball Selection Show they were selected as the host team for the Central Regional tournament. The eight-team regional tournament will begin on Thursday and continue through Monday will all of the games to be played at Walker Stadium at Goodheart Field.
Southern Arkansas was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Division II Central region Wednesday after winning the Great American Conference Baseball Championships tournament in Enid, Okla. The Muleriders entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, but lost, 9-3, to fifth seed Arkansas Tech (29-23) in their first game on May 5. They then won four consecutive games May 6-8 at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
The Muleriders feature redshirt sophomore catcher Zach Muldoon from Lake Hamilton. He caught all five games for Southern Arkansas in Enid, hitting .278 in the tournament with five hits.
Muldoon is batting .270 for the season with three home runs, 22 runs and 19 RBIs. He leads the team with 27 walks.
Southern Arkansas eliminated top-seeded Arkansas-Monticello (30-19), fourth seed Henderson State (30-19) and third seed Oklahoma Baptist (27-15) on consecutive days. Monticello entered the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed, but was the first team eliminated with losses in the first two games.
The Boll Weevils fell from No. 8 in the previous Central rankings to No. 10. Henderson was ranked No. 10 in prior to the tournament and finished the season ranked No. 9.
Oklahoma Baptist used a seven game winning streak before consecutive losses to Southern Arkansas to move to No. 8 in the rankings. The Bison are seeded seventh in the Central Regional.
Joining the two GAC teams are four from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and two from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Mid-American champion Central Missouri (37-15) is seeded No. 2 with fellow league clubs Central Oklahoma (35-19) and Pittsburg State (33-19) seeded third and fourth, respectively. Emporia State (33-22), the runner-up in the MIAA tournament, is not ranked in the Central's top 10 but made the regional as the eighth seed.
Northern Sun champion Augustana (44-8) and St. Cloud State (29-15) are the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, respectively.
Oklahoma Baptist is matched up with Central Missouri in the first round on Thursday at 5 p.m. Pittsburg and Augustana are scheduled to open the tournament at 10 a.m.
Southern Arkansas will meet Emporia in the second game Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Central Oklahoma and St. Cloud are scheduled for the final game of the day at 8:30 p.m.
A win on Thursday would pit Southern Arkansas against the winner between Pittsburg and Augustana on Friday at 5 p.m. The losers from both games are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.
The 2018 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship includes two regional sites with six teams, four sites with seven teams and two regionals with eight teams. All regionals are double-elimination tournaments and will be held Thursday through Monday.
The eight regional champions will advance to the double-elimination national championship finals May 26 through June 2 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The finals will be hosted by the University of Mount Olive and the town of Cary, N.C.Sports on 05/15/2018
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