Blue Hen baseball team to face Texas Tech in NCAA Tournament

NEWARK — The newly-crowned Colonial Athletic Association champion University of Delaware baseball squad is heading to Lubbock, Texas for the NCAA Tournament this coming weekend.

The Blue Hens (34-21), who have won 10 of their last 11 games, earned the number four seed in the Lubbock Regional and will play Friday at 3 p.m. (EST) against host, top-seed, and No. 3 ranked (D1baseball.com) Texas Tech (43-15).

Friday’s game will be available on WatchESPN.com. The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of #15 Arizona (37-19) vs. Sam Houston State (40-20), Saturday at 7 p.m. (EST). The losing teams in the first day matchups will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. (EST) in the first elimination game.

Delaware is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the 17th time in school history but for the first time since the 2001 season when the Hens competed at the Columbus, Ohio Regional at Ohio State.

“This is not an icing on the cake type of deal, we are going out there to win,” Delaware head coach Jim Sherman said. “We are in a four-team, double-elimination tournament. Our No. 1 guy Ron Marinaccio is throwing really well and we believe in him. Right now, we are swinging the bats well. We are going out there to win and anything is possible. We think we have the right team.”

Blue Hen baseball players react as they are selected to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. (UD sports informaton/Mark Campbell)

Delaware earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the 2017 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title behind four impressive victories in four days. The Hens outscored opponents by a 38-14 margin in sweeping all four games, two against host and No. 2 seed UNCW.

The Blue Hens lead the CAA in both batting average (.313/No. 14 in NCAA), earned run average (4.35), and scoring (7.5 runs per game/No. 16 in NCAA) becoming the first CAA team to pull off that statistical triple since 2002.

Eight Delaware starters are batting over .300 for the season led by CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Jeremy Ake, a senior shortstop who ranks No. 2 in the CAA with a .359 average. Five Blue Hens have knocked in 40 or more runs this season while three have 10 or home runs. Sophomore first baseman Nick Patten has a team-high 14 home runs and leads the squad with 52 RBI.

“Texas Tech is a great baseball program and we are looking forward to going down there and playing Delaware Baseball,” said Patten. “We are feeling great. We’ve been getting great hitting, pitching, and defense and we showed that this past weekend. As long as we can keep doing what we do, we can go down and there and play some good ball.”

On the mound, Marinaccio leads the CAA and ranks No. 14 nationall with a 1.85 ERA to go with a record of 4-2 that includes 65 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. Since moving from the closer roll midway through the season, he has a 0.93 ERA and a 4-1 record in seven starts.

“We are definitely playing our best baseball right now,” said Marinaccio. “It’s just baseball, so anything can happen. We are going to be on that field and expect to win. Our defense is playing well and we are hitting well. We feel confident. It’s going to be fun playing in front of a big crowd and a great atmosphere.”

On Monday, the Blue Hens gathered for a celebration as the 35 student-athletes, friends, family members, UD staff, and Blue Hens fans all gathered in the Bob Carpenter Center Club for a watch party. About 20-minutes into the hour-long program which aired nationally live on ESPN2, the Blue Hens saw their name announced, setting off wild celebration.

“It’s always about the kids and their commitment,” Sherman added. “This team really has come together with all the work they have done on the field and in the classroom. That whole commitment is worthwhile, especially with winning the conference championship. It lifts our reputation another level. We always had that great reputation in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and we want to get back to that again.”

Delaware has never faced Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, or Arizona dating back to the program’s inception in 1889. The trip will be the Hens’ first visit to the state of Texas since playing host University of Houston in a three-game set to open the 2012 season.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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