Series' odd streak still intact

Monroe CC's Phil Ferranti bats against Brunswick CC during the 2018 NJCAA DII World Series at David Allen Memorial Ballpark May 26, 2018. (Billy Hefton / Enid news & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — All season-long defending NJCAA Division II World Series champion LSU-Eunice appeared to be a lock to, at the very least, make the 2019 Series with a shot at defending its title. Ranked No. 1 throughout much of the year, the Bengals looked like a sure bet to secure another trip to Enid.

Pearl River, Miss., had other ideas and in the process kept an odd streak going.

When Pearl River defeated LSU-Eunice with a berth in the World Series on the line, it ensured that for the 11th-straight year, there would not be a back-to-back World Series champion coming out of Enid. Even more vexing, it also marked the sixth consecutive year the defending World Series champion didn't even give itself a chance to defend.

The last champion to make it to Enid with an opportunity to defend its title was 2012 champ LSU-Eunice in 2013. Since then, in order, defending champs Murray State, Mesa, Ariz., LSU-Eunice, Jones County, Miss., Kankakee, Ill., and again LSU-Eunice have failed to return to the Series the season after winning their title.

Return engagements

This year's field includes three teams back from last year's World Series.

Hometown favorite, No. 5 seed Northern Oklahoma College Enid, makes its fourth appearance in the World Series and it's the first time the Jets have qualified for the Series in back-to-back seasons. It is their third time in Enid. NOC Enid's first Series appearance was in 2002 when the Series was held in Millington, Tenn. The Jets finished third in the 2018 Series.

Madison, Wis. returns to the Series for the second-straight year and enters as the No. 2 seed. The Wolfpack are Series regulars, making their ninth Series appearance overall and eighth in Enid. Madison's best finish was third in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Only Iowa Central has as many appearances without winning the crown.

The third returning team is No. 10 seed Monroe, N.Y., making its sixth overall appearance.

Maiden voyages

Two teams in this year's field are making their first trips to Enid for the Series.

Top-seed Pearl River is making only its second-ever World Series appearance and first trip to Enid. The Wildcats' other appearance was in 2002.

No. 7 seed NE Nebraska will be playing in its first-ever World Series

Three teams are back from last year and another makes its tournament debut in the 2019 NJCAA Division II World Series. Here's a closer look at each of the 10 participating teams:

Past champs

While there won't be a back-to-back champion, there are two teams with championship pedigrees.

No. 6 seed Lincoln Land, Ill., will be seeking its third Series championship in program history. The Loggers won it all in 1994 and 2000 and are making their seventh overall appearance.

No. 3 seed Mesa is making its first trip back to Enid since winning it all in 2014. It will be Mesa's fifth trip overall to the Series.

The road to the title goes through NOC Enid

In NOC Enid's three previous appearances, the team that has eliminated the Jets has gone on to win it all.

In 2002 the Jets were eliminated by Parkland, Ill. In 2014, Mesa grounded the Jets' hopes and last season LSU-Eunice ended the Jets' title aspirations before going on to win it all.

If the Jets don't win it all this year, you may wish to make book on the team that knocks them out.

Toss the rankings away

This year's World Series field has only one team that was ranked in the Top 10 in the final NJCAA Division II baseball.

Pearl River finished the season ranked No. 6 overall as the only team within the Top 10 to survive a spate of postseason upsets across Division II.

The top 5 teams in final rankings, No. 1 LSU-Eunice, No. 2 Itawamba, Miss., No. 3 Sinclair, Ohio, No. 4 Jones County, Miss., and No. 5 Western Oklahoma are all sitting this one out. Western Oklahoma was eliminated by NOC Enid.

Only four other Series teams outside of Pearl River finished ranked in the Top 20. Mesa finished at No. 11, followed by Kellogg (12), NOC Enid (13) and Madison (14).

NE Nebraska, Lincoln Land, Pasco-Hernando, Fla., Lackawanna, Pa., and Monroe were all unranked.

Opening ceremonies

Rainfall late Thursday and early Friday has forced changes in Friday opening night ceremonies for the NJCAA World Series in Enid.

As of mid-morning Friday, games in 10-team junior college baseball tournament were still set to begin Saturday morning as scheduled.

World Series opening night ceremonies Friday evening at David Allen Memorial Ballpark will continue, but the scheduled Home Run Derby featuring World Series teams has been canceled. The Guns vs. Hoses softball game between the Enid Police Department and the Enid Fire Department also was canceled.

Activities Friday evening will be restricted to the turfed infield. Opening night activities begin at 6:30 with the introduction of NJCAA leadership, tournament officials, umpires, teams and coaches. A special recognition will highlight the 20th anniversary of the ballpark opening in downtown Enid. More than 5,000 games have been played at David Allen since it opened in 1999. There will be a photo display and recognition of those involved with the original opening of the ballpark.

Because sporting events have been eliminated Friday evening, everyone attending opening night ceremonies will be able to participate in a tennis ball toss, Mayberry said.

Admission for opening night is free and concessions will be open.

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at daver@enidnews.com.

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