The D3 Baseball season is down to three possible games, as Washington and Jefferson will take on Cal Lutheran to decide who will reign supreme as the champions of the 2017 season.
Before action gets underway on a lovely Memorial Day afternoon in Wisconsin, take a look below at a preview for each team, as well as a final prediction for who will be the D3 Baseball champion for 2017!
W&J has been one of the best offensive teams throughout the entire NCAA Tournament, hitting double digits a few times and getting close a few more. But besides a great offense that has propelled them, the pitching staff has done a masterful job of holding leads, and getting the team an opportunity to start off well.
Over the course of the NCAA Playoffs, W&J has allowed an average of under four runs per game, with 31 allowed in eight contests. Counteracting that, the Presidents have scored 70 runs, nearly nine per outing.
One player who will be critical for W&J in their quest for their first title is senior infielder Adam LaRue who has hit .345 on the season and serves as the team's leadoff hitter. With 26 RBI from the top spot in the order this season, LaRue has provided a nice combo of startup play as well as driving in some of the late batters who get on base just as well.
In the World Series, W&J has scored 11 runs in the first three innings, and a great start will be their key to victory against a Kingsmen team who has great pitching depth of their own.
The Kingsmen hold the crown as being the lone top seed to advance through the tournament, as the one, two, and four seeds were all knocked out. As the third seed, CLU has faced some decent competition who can give late runs, but Cal Lu always finds a way to come home victorious.
The Presidents will be the best team they have faced thus far, and that can present a challenge for CLU. With a balanced offense and great pitching staff, it will be up to the SCIAC champs to start early and ride their great pitching to a victory.
During their run in the NCAA Playoffs, CLU has yet to lose, winning 10 straight and 12 straight dating back to the SCIAC Tournament. In these 10 matchups, the Kingsmen have reached double digits in scoring three times, including each of their last two games prior to meeting W&J — both of which were against North Central.
In game one, it is likely we will see Marshall Pautsch take the mound, and CLU needs him to be dominant as he was against Wheaton (8 IP, 10 K, 2 ER) for them to silence the hot President attack. If Pautsch gets knocked around, CLU may have a hard time recovering as W&J has shown a great ability to hold a lead this postseason.
When it comes down to who will win, I lean towards Washington and Jefferson as the favorites. CLU may have the higher seed and might be the hotter team because of their long winning streak, but W&J has played extremely well, balanced ball that cannot be overlooked.
Both teams are aiming for their first national title, and that should come out in some desperate play as every inch can decide the contest. With such depth for both pitching staffs, this series will likely be low-scoring throughout, and should definitely be expected to last three contests.
But in the end, Washington and Jefferson is my predicted champion as they have shown just a bit more balance on both sides of the ball, and an ability to find ways to win. CLU has been great this postseason, but unfortunately their run comes to a halt with a 2-1 series loss in the final series of the season.
Projected Champion: Washington and Jefferson