Wonder Boys, DSU Meet for Key Series

At the beginning of the 2010 baseball season, Arkansas Tech was not even in the discussion as a potential Gulf South Conference Tournament team. Now, the Wonder Boys are in the running for a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Arkansas Tech (30-14 overall, 10-4 GSC) will look to continue its surprise season when it visits nationally 15th-ranked Delta State (31-10-1, 11-3) for a three-game series at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field in Cleveland, Miss., this weekend. The Wonder Boys and the Statesmen will play two games at 3 p.m. Saturday and a single contest at 2 p.m. Sunday. Radio station KCAB 980 AM will broadcast all three games. The broadcasts will be streamed over the Internet at www.athletics.atu.edu. Arkansas Tech was picked to finish sixth in the GSC West Division in a preseason poll of league head coaches. But none of the coaches voting in that poll could have predicted what the Wonder Boys’ offense would do in 2010. Tech ranks among the top 20 teams in NCAA Division II in runs scored, batting average, base hits, triples and stolen bases. That offense has been the No. 1 factor in giving the Wonder Boys their first 30-win season since 2004, a firm hold on the third spot in the GSC West Division standings and a chance to earn their first GSC Tournament berth since 2007.

The top four teams in the final GSC West standings will advance to the GSC Tournament May 1-5 in Millington, Tenn. This weekend presents Arkansas Tech with a chance to move up in the GSC West. Delta State is in second place, just one game in front of the Wonder Boys.

The Statesmen are also in front of Arkansas Tech in an even more important listing — the NCAA Division II South Region rankings. The first 2010 edition of that poll was released this week. Delta State is ranked fifth in the region, while Arkansas Tech is ranked 10th.

The region rankings will be used at the end of the season to determine which eight teams from the South Region will move on to the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament.

The Wonder Boys have never earned an NCAA Tournament bid in baseball. The Statesmen have been to the NCAA Baseball Tournament 26 times, they have made 10 appearances in the NCAA Division II College World Series and they were national champions in 2004.

Quality wins over a program such as Delta State would certainly help Arkansas Tech’s position in the regional rankings, but history indicates it won’t be easy.

The Statesmen are 15-1 against the Wonder Boys in games played at Ferriss Field this century. Delta State has an all-time record of 45-5 against Arkansas Tech. The Statesmen have won the last 10 meetings in the series and 30 of the last 31.

The Wonder Boys’ only win over Delta State since 1999 was a 4-2 victory in Cleveland on April 8, 2006. Tech starter Aubrey Miller, who went on to pitch professionally in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization, was the winning pitcher that day.

After their visit to Delta State, the Wonder Boys will have just one regular season conference series remaining — a three-game set at Harding University on April 24-25.