The Coe and Cornell baseball teams took different routes, but reached the same destination.
The 12th-ranked Kohawks tallied a 34-5 overall record, running away with the American Rivers Conference regular-season title and finishing second in the league tournament.
The Rams rallied with four consecutive elimination-game victories and claimed the Midwest Conference tournament title to extend their season.
Both squads earned spots in the NCAA Division III baseball tournament and head to a regional hosted by Washington (Mo.) University in St. Louis, beginning Friday. Regional champions advance to super regionals for a chance to reach the D-III World Series May 31 through June 5 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids.
Despite the impressive regular-season resume, Coe had to wait for an at-large bid announced Monday by the NCAA.
“We were thankful to get the opportunity,” Coe Coach Steve Cook said. “You never know how that is going to shake out and we were very excited to get the result we did.”
Cornell (26-17) secured its first NCAA tournament appearance, double-dipping Ripon (Wis.) for the MWC automatic berth. The Rams reached the postseason with a runner-up finish in the South Division and overcame a first-round loss to Chicago. They rebounded to beat Monmouth (Ill.), Chicago and Ripon (21-13 and 8-2).
Fifth-ranked Washington (31-5-1) is the top seed and faces fourth-seeded Cornell. Coe is the No. 2 seed and plays No. 3 Aurora (Ill.) in the opener. Aurora (34-9) won the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference tournament.
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Interestingly, Coe and Cornell did not play this season due to weather. The Kohawks have not faced any of the teams in the field, but faced all three last season.
“It’s a good region,” Cook said. “They are programs we’re familiar with at least.
“It’s a good draw and something we would fully expect to go against, as far as the high quality of teams.”
The A-R-C will host the D-III World Series. The tournament had been played in Appleton (Wis.) since 2000. Cedar Rapids will begin its four-year stint as host through 2022.
The Kohawks haven’t shied away from talk of the goal to be the hometown team among the final eight.
“There is no doubt that the road to get there is a difficult one,” Cook said. “You have a regional and a super regional, but this is a group that has all the confidence in the world in themselves in any situation. We know we’re as likely as anybody, at least in our minds, if we play well. We have every reason to believe we have a chance to win.”
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