BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Wesleyan coach Dennis Martel did not like his team’s chances of playing any more baseball this season when the Titans walked off Horenberger Field after two disheartening losses in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament last Friday.
Those fears proved to be unfounded as the defending Division III national champions received an at-large berth Monday as the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Division III regional that IWU will host this week.
“I thought we were dead in the water,” Martel said. “But I think our strength of schedule helped us out. Probably more important was the fact there weren’t many (conference tournament) upsets around the country. That kept us in there.”
The Titans (26-16) will play No. 3 seed Thomas More (28-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the six-team, double-elimination tournament. The winner advances to the national tournament in Appleton, Wis., May 27-31.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a great accomplishment to get to the regional because we lost 10 seniors,” Martel said. “We just wanted a chance to defend the championship. Now we get that chance.”
Game 1 of the regional will be at noon Wednesday between No. 1 seed Coe (32-10) and No. 6 seed Ripon. Game 2 follows with No. 2 seed Carthage facing No. 5 Buena Vista (28-15) at 3:30 p.m.
Martel said he will miss Wednesday’s game. He is attending his mother-in-law’s funeral in South Dakota.
This is IWU’s ninth NCAA appearance and sixth in the last eight years. There has not been a repeat champion in Division III since Rowan in 1978 and 1979.
Thursday and Friday games also will be at noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. with the championship game slated for a noon start Saturday.
General admission tickets are $5 each for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.
IWU will host a NCAA Division III baseball regional at Horenberger Field this week. Here are Wednesday’s matchups:
-- No. 1 Coe (32-10) vs. No. 6 Ripon (20-18), noon
-- No. 2 Carthage (29-10) vs. No. 5 Buena Vista (28-15), 3:30 p.m.
-- No. 3 Thomas More (28-7) vs. No. 4 Illinois Wesleyan (26-16), 7 p.m.