ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SCSU needs win and maybe more to reach playoffs

NEW HAVEN — A few months ago the Southern Connecticut State athletic department was shocked by its seeding in the NCAA Division II baseball tournament.
The Owls figured to get the region’s No. 1 seed after winning the Northeast-10 Conference title and host the East Regional at Yale Field. Instead, Franklin Pierce, which finished third in the Northeast-10 conference and didn’t even win the NE-10 postseason was awarded the top seed.
The Owls, however, got the last laugh, making the trek to Rindge, N.H., and winning the regional on the Franklin Pierce campus to advance to the College World Series.
Now, the SCSU football finds itself in an even more sticky situation. As Southern prepares for its final game of the regular season the Owls are pinning their playoff hopes to the outcome but even with a win they could get shutout of the six-team NCAA Division II regional playoff field.
Southern plays host Merrimack on Saturday at Jess Dow Field at 1 p.m.
The Owls enter the game with a 7-2 record overall, 7-1 in Division II play. Southern lost at FCS school Central Connecticut State to start the season. That loss, according to the by-laws of the selection committee does not count among its Division II playoff resume.
Southern entered last weekend ranked seventh in the Super Regional I rankings. The Owls did not play but, off its bye-week, still dropped a spot to eight place in the rankings. But, what makes that drop more confusing, is the fact three teams ranked ahead of SCSU lost their games.
“I have to be honest that I thought we would move up,” SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh said. “I thought with some of those teams losing we would. I don’t have access to the numbers. You really don’t know what are point total is, what are strength of schedule is, but the only thing that I thought is that we have one loss and some of those other teams have more than one loss.
I thought that was part of the criteria.
“I guess some of those teams lost to some pretty high-ranked teams but we have one loss and it’s against the No. 1 ranked team.”
There was a general feeling that the Southern’s Northeast-10 Conference did not earn enough respect among members of the tournament selection committee heading into this season. And that was with good reason. For the past two seasons not one NE-10 team has earned a spot in the playoffs. SCSU had gone to the tournament the four prior seasons.
But this year New Haven, which is Southern’s only DII blemish, is ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 10 nationally. Thus it is apparent that there is some respect for the conference.
SCSU Associate Director of Athletics/Communications Mike Kobylanski said he would be “frustrated” if the Owls were to win this week and not gain a spot in the playoffs.
“In baseball and basketball it was also a matter of who you beat non-conference,” Kobylanski said. “We beat West Liberty State this year (out of conference). They were 8-2 last year and this year, how did we know that they’d go 1-9.
“It clearly would be frustrating for the university and the student athletes because in terms of scheduling and performance on the field we tried to do everything we can. I wouldn’t say I would be frustrated in the system, just more of a general frustration because we tried to do everything we could and it wouldn’t be deemed good enough.”
Kobylanski pointed to a couple of games that could help the Owls’ chances this week: Winston-Salem beating Elizabeth City and Concord beating West Virginia Wesleyan would look to be beneficial to SCSU’s cause.
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