Statesmen motivated for D-II World Series|[5/27/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 27, 2005

JACKSON – After dominating the NCAA Division II South Central Regional, Delta State heads back to Montgomery, Ala. to defend its national title.

First-team All-Region 23 catcher and Ferriss Trophy finalist Craig Newton of Vicksburg said his team had plenty of motivation going into the four-team regional at Cleveland. They hope to have a carry-over into the eight-team national tournament.

“I think a bad (Gulf South) conference tournament sparked us up,” Newton said. “It was the best ball that we’ve played in a while. It was phenomenal how everybody hit well. It was our ‘A’ game.”

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Delta State (51-8) ran roughshod in the regional, outscoring its foes 44-7 in sweeping three games.

The attention now turns toward the D-II World Series, which begins Saturday at 1 p.m., when the Statesmen take on Cal State Chico (42-14-1).

“Chico State was there last year and they have a strong club. We’re going to get some good competition for us right off the bat,” Newton said. “But right now, we’re playing our best ball and it’s come at the right time. We think we can have a good week.”

Last year, the Statesmen had to beat top-ranked Central Missouri State twice in a three-game span to make it to the national finals. Once there, the Statesmen defeated Grand Valley State (Mich.) 12-8 to win the title.

Central Missouri (55-7) is back, and could meet the DSU-Cal State Chico winner provided the Mules beat Florida Southern (46-10) in their opener.

Grand Valley State (34-15) is on the other side of the bracket and will face West Virginia State on Sunday at 1 p.m. The other first round match-up has North Florida (45-14) going against Southern Connecticut State (31-12) at 6:30 p.m.

Play will continue in a two-bracket, double-elimination format with the two winners emerging to play in the national championship game on June 4 at 11:05 a.m.

DSU head coach Mike Kinnison expects a tough game from Chico.

“They won a national championship not too long ago (1996) and they are a fixture at the World Series, but we haven’t played them before,” Kinnison said.

Like Newton, Kinnison credited a poor showing at the GSC tournament in Millington, Tenn., as the catalyst for last weekend’s rampage.

“We were a little more focused and determined to turn things around. We played with the heart and desire we had had for most of the season.”

Newton, a Warren Central product, did his part, lifting his season average by two points to .360 while hammering two home runs and driving in nine runs.

For the season, Newton has 15 home runs and 75 RBIs.

“He’s done everything for us,” Kinnison said. “His offensive numbers have been tremendous, but he also has helped us with his defensive skills with the way he calls the games for our pitchers.”