College Baseball

Hawks earn NCAA bid, seeded sixth in Midwest

Quincy University's Jeff Hightower, left, and TJ Tamaccio celebrate a Hightower home run earlier this season. The Hawks are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season. | H-W Photo/Matt Schuckman
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 13, 2019 7:40 am Updated: May. 13, 2019 8:26 am

QUINCY -- The last name unveiled was the only one the Quincy University baseball players wanted to see.

The Hawks are back in the NCAA Tournament.

Quincy received one of the 33 at-large bids in the 56-team Division II national tournament field and will be the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region. The Hawks (32-18) will open against third-seeded Wayne State (34-15) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Robin Roberts Stadium in Springfield, Ill.

"We knew we had done enough to get in and felt pretty good about it," senior left-handed pitcher Aaron Stone said. "It was still kind of nerve-racking waiting for our name to pop up."

The eight-team Midwest Region will be split into two four-team, double-elimination brackets with the winner of each meeting in a best-of-three super regional.

The regional hosts are top-seeded Ashland and second-seeded Illinois-Springfield.

Sunday night, during the NCAA selection show, the four teams competing in Ashland were unveiled first, and that group included fifth-seeded Bellarmine in the spot many of the Hawks thought they'd wind up.

"I saw a couple of the guys put their hands behind their head and have that look like they were thinking, ‘Are we going to slip out of this?'" said QU coach Josh Rabe, who gathered the team at the Hawks' Nest on the QU campus to watch the selection show.

"Once they saw Drury's name pop up there, they kind of relaxed. Everybody knew we were in."

Drury, which Quincy eliminated from the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament, drew the seventh seed and will face Illinois-Springfield in the opening round.

When Wayne State was unveiled as the third seed, the Hawks knew they were the sixth seed.

"Getting one more chance to do this is pretty special for all of us, especially the seniors," Stone said. "Leaving it up to chance by not winning the GLVC Tournament was kind of nerve-racking, but I think everyone was confident we'd get in.

"We've got our shot. Now we have to go take advantage of it."

The Hawks are in a favorable position.

Despite losing to Illinois-Springfield in the GLVC Tournament, the Hawks took 2 of 3 from the Prairie Stars during the regular season and took 3 of 4 from Drury. Quincy did not face Wayne State in non-conference play, but beat the Warriors twice in the Midwest Regional in 2017 when they advanced to the NCAA Division II World Series.

Quincy is expected to face Wayne State junior right-hander Hunter Brown, who is 9-0 with a 1.80 ERA and is expected to be selected during the first two days of the MLB amateur draft in June.

The edge against a pitcher like that? A short road trip might be it.

The Hawks have to travel roughly 100 miles rather than the 500 miles the Warriors must come.

"I'd rather be on a bus for 90 minutes instead of 10 hours," Rabe said. "Plus, there are going to be a lot of people able to come over there. We have to take advantage of that."