05/16/13 — NCAA Division II Southeast Regional title up for grabs

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NCAA Division II Southeast Regional title up for grabs

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 16, 2013 1:49 PM

Grab some slips of paper, write down the team names and drop them into a hat.

Shake the hat.

Pull out a slip.

The best bet is any one of the six participants you draw out of that hat are capable of winning the 2013 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, which began this morning at Mount Olive College.

The three automatic qualifiers -- Lincoln Memorial, Georgia College and Coker -- were all long shots in their respective conferences. They weren't projected to make the championship round.

But they're here.

Top-seeded Mount Olive College climbed to No. 1 in both the Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA polls at one point this season. The Trojans (46-6 overall) regained their No. 1 slot in Collegiate Baseball, and are seventh in the most-recent NCBWA poll.

Peach Belt members USC-Aiken and Armstrong Atlantic each enter the regional nationally ranked.

See why it's a toss-up?

Each team has its respective strengths and weaknesses. The key is playing to those strengths and disguising the weaknesses as best you can. And as is the case with most postseason games, pitching and defense usually win.

Don't be surprised to see these teams play conservative early, and then explode as the game progresses.

That's been the modus operandi (MO) of Mount Olive during the past month. The Trojans have been slow starters in some games and each hitter in the lineup has used his initial plate appearance to see what an opposing pitcher is willing to give him.

Mount Olive, on its second trip through the lineup, makes the adjustments and usually grinds out a few runs to take control of the ballgame.

Of course, Trojans head coach Carl Lancaster wants to see his team return to its early-season offensive form when it was putting up significant runs in either the first or second inning.

Three teams in the regional -- Mount Olive, Georgia College, Armstrong Atlantic and USC-Aiken -- have played in the College World Series. Mount Olive won it all in 2008 and Georgia College advanced to the CWS in 2010.

Coker and Lincoln Memorial are first-time regional qualifiers, and obviously, neither team has nothing to lose when they step onto Scarborough Field.

It's anybody's guess who will raise the championship trophy Sunday afternoon.

One thing is for sure, though. They'll have been battle tested on each pitch every inning, and will carry that experience into the CWS.