By: Jacob Pumphrey/Southern Arkansas Athletics
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the 14th time in program history and for the second straight season, Southern Arkansas Baseball is headed to the NCAA postseason. The Muleriders (41-11) earned the Central Region’s No. 2 seed and will play host to No. 3 seed Henderson State (38-15), No. 6 seed Northeastern State (37-16) and No. 7 seed Washburn (33-20) in a four-team, double-elimination sub regional beginning on Thursday, May 19 from Walker Stadium at Goodheart Field. The winner will advance to the Central Super Regional for a three-game series and face the last team standing in the Warrensburg Regional which consists of host and top seed Central Missouri, No. 4 Minnesota State, No. 5 Augustana and No. 8 Ouachita.
First pitch for the Muleriders’ opening round game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Live coverage links for the tournament will be available at www.muleriderathletics.com/2022_bsb_centralregiontournament.
Southern Arkansas adds Sunday night’s regional tournament selection to berths earned in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and now in eight of the previous 11 seasons that it has been a member of the Great American Conference. NCAA postseason action returns to Magnolia for the third time with SAU previously hosting the 2009 South Regional and the 2018 Central Regional; both eight-team tournaments.
The Muleriders claimed the Great American Conference regular season championship outright, the program’s sixth as a league member, with a 14-1 win over Southern Nazarene on April 22. Southern Arkansas carried the top seed into the GAC Tournament and behind an explosive offense and steady pitching, SAU went 4-0 in Hot Springs to earn its sixth league tournament title and claim the GAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA postseason.
Making the trip to Magnolia will be a trio of familiar foes whether this season or in recent years. GAC regular season and tournament runner-up Henderson State holds the No. 3 seed and will matchup with No. 6 seed Northeastern State in the tournament opener at 2 p.m. on Thursday. The Reddies make their third NCAA postseason appearance in program history and the team’s first since a 2015 run to the DII World Series. Northeastern State earns its first NCAA postseason berth in program history and its first trip to a national tournament since 1996.
SAU and HSU have met five times in 2022 with the Muleriders holding a 3-2 advantage in the season series. Southern Arkansas won two of three league games in a series played in Magnolia in early April. Henderson State won an ensuing midweek contest in Arkadelphia three days later and the two squared off in the GAC Tournament Championship. The Muleriders’ season began in Hot Springs against Northeastern State and resulted in the RiverHawks taking a 7-5 decision.
Like their MIAA counterpart, Washburn is also in the NCAA postseason for the first time in program history. The Ichabods won four games in the MIAA Tournament which included victories over fellow regional participants Central Missouri and NSU. Washburn earned a trip to the tournament championship game for the first time since the 2000 season. Thursday’s matchup will be the tenth meeting between the two schools since the start of the 2016 season and the fifth time the programs convene in Magnolia. SAU holds the slight series advantage at 5-4.
Game times are set for 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with Sunday’s if-necessary game scheduled for 2 p.m. Tickets will be available both in advance at www.muleriderathletics.com/tickets and at the gate daily. The price of admission is $8 for fans ages 13 and up, while fans ages 12 and under will get in for free. One ticket will allow a fan to see both games. No tournament passes will be sold and previous passes (Mulerider Club, SAU All-Sports, etc.) will not be accepted for entrance. Fans can use both cash and credit at the gate to purchase tickets on gameday, while cash and credit options will also be accepted at concession and tournament merchandise locations.