Golden Eagles not selected for NCAA Tournament

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Ben Bryant and the Minnesota Crookston baseball team finished 26-12 this season.

It was a faint hope, but the Minnesota Crookston baseball team clung to it.

After the Golden Eagles fell, 11-3, to Augustana in the NSIC Tournament on Thursday night, coach Steve Gust admitted his team's chances of being selected the NCAA Tournament weren't likely. But to him, UMC was a top-six team in the Central Region and a worthy candidate for a bid.

"I guess it's out of our control so we can't worry about it," Gust said then. "... I think our numbers compare with the rest of them that are competing for those final two spots."

Apparently, the NCAA's selection committee didn't feel the same way. 

The Golden Eagles weren't named as one of the teams headed to the Central Regional in Warrensburg, Mo. next week, meaning that their season, the best in program history by just about any measure, will end with a 26-12 record.

Central Missouri, which won the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament title, earned the region's No. 1 seed. The host Mules were joined by NSIC teams Augustana and Minnesota State, which won the league's tournament championship on Friday over the Vikings.

The Great American Conference sent three teams to Warrensburg: No. 4 Arkansas Tech, No. 5 Southern Arkansas and No. 6 Henderson State, winners of the league's automatic bid.

The Central Regional normally takes eight teams between the NSIC, MIAA and GAC, but that changed this season due to COVID-19. Had 2021 been a normal, non-COVID year, the Golden Eagles might have found themselves in one of the last two spots.

UMC gave itself slim hope on Thursday when it defeated St. Cloud State, which had previously been ranked No. 6 in the Central Region rankings, in an NSIC Tournament elimination game. But Henderson State winning the GAC conference tournament as a No. 7 seed didn't help the Golden Eagles' cause, as did their loss to Augustana later Thursday.

Minnesota Crookston achieved its first-ever national ranking this season, rising as high as 19th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association poll. It won its first 12 games and 16 of its first 18 games overall, the best start in school history.

However, the Golden Eagles lost eight games to COVID-19 protocols in April between two separate hiatuses, blunting their momentum and leaving them shorthanded for much of the remainder of the regular season.

At full health for the postseason, UMC won its first NSIC Tournament games of all time when it swept Minot State in the first round to advance to last week's finals in Sioux Falls, S.D., where it went 1-2.

The end of UMC's season means the end of the college careers of 12 seniors: Bobby Chu, Brock Reller, Eli Jung, Garrett Hohn, Gregory Diaz, Jared Andersen, Jayden Grover, Landyn Swenson, Mason Ruhlman, Scott Finberg, T.J. Hokanson and Will Zimmerman.

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