This week is the start of the college baseball playoffs and we have three Alaskans taking part in national tournaments at NCAA D3 and NAIA.
Anchorage’s Tyler Thompson and Garrett Brown helped Pacific Lutheran University of Washington earn its first postseason berth since 2007.
Meanwhile, Aaron Miller of Anchorage has Mayville State University of North Dakota back in the playoffs.
PLU earned the No. 2 seed in the South Region of the NCAA tournament and will travel to Georgia to begin play Wednesday in the six-team double-elimination tournament.
“This is huge for our program,” Thompson told me. “There’s been years in the past before I was here where the team thought they did enough to get in and didn’t, so it feels really good to finally get a shot at a regional tournament.”
There was no denying the Lutes, who have posted a 30-12 record and won the Northwest Conference regular-season championship.
But they had to wait for the NCAA to make the official announcement late Sunday night.
That’s not the case with Mayville State, which has known for a week it was bound for the NAIA tournament after winning the North Star Athletic Association tournament title.
The Comets [39-20] are the No. 5 seed in the Bellevue bracket in Nebraska and will face Madonna University on Tuesday in the opening round.
“My first two years we made nationals by an at-large bid from rankings, but this year we made it by winning our conference and it is a sweeter feeling getting in by winning the conference tourney,” Miller told me.
Miller, of Service High fame, is batting .341 in 53 games this season. He leads Mayville State with 50 RBIs to go with 4 home runs, 13 doubles and 15 stolen bases.
“It feels great being a contributing part of this team’s success,” he said.
The junior outfielder is a major clog in an offensive hitting .319 as a team.
“I like our chances this year,” Miller said. “We have a senior-dominated team and a close group of guys that all believe we are going win this and make it to the World Series in Lewiston.”
At PLU, Thompson and Brown have also played a key role in helping the Lutes get back to the national stage.
Thompson, of Dimond High fame, is batting .305 in 39 games and ranks second on the team with 4 home runs, 34 RBIs and 29 runs.
“My mindset will be the same it’s been all year,” the junior third baseman said. “Don’t add any pressure. Just be myself and play my game.
“To me, I try to not make it any different than the regular season, but I know it won’t always be that way.”
Brown, of Service High fame, has started 8 of 13 games and is 4-1 with a 4.10 ERA. The junior right-hander has 56 strikeouts in 52.2 innings.
Look for all three Alaskans to continue playing well, even though the circumstances are much different. Now every play, every pitch and every at-bat matter more than ever.
“It’s do–or-die baseball,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be really fun to get out there and compete with my teammates.”