The Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament will begin Saturday at Dave “Boo” Ferriss Field at Tim and Nancy Harvey Stadium.
The tournament, which will be in a pool play format, will last through Tuesday. DSU (38-8, No. 1 seed) will play begin play Saturday at 8:30 p.m. against West Alabama (20-25, No. 8 seed). DSU will also play North Alabama (31-17, No. 5 seed) Sunday at 5 p.m. and Mississippi College (29-15, No. 4 seed) Monday at a time to be announced. The other pool features Montevallo (34-15, No. 2 seed), West Florida (30-18, No. 3 seed), West Georgia (31-16, No. 6 seed) and Lee University (25-24, No. 7 seed).
The top team from each pool will play each other in the championship game Tuesday.
This is the second consecutive year that DSU will host the GSC Tournament.
Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison, who has a career record of 935-296-2 in his 22 years as the Statesmen skipper, said hosting the tournament is a wonderful achievement.
“I think it’s a great memory for them (the players), and they get to play in front of our hometown crowd,” Kinnison said. “In the past, the community has come out and supported our program, particularly in the playoffs. Everybody’s interest heightens during playoffs and we understand that. There are eight really good teams and no easy games anywhere. I think our community will get to see some really good baseball.”
Earlier in the year, DSU won two straight games from West Alabama 7-6 and 4-1 in a series on Mar. 17 in Livingston.
Kinnison said he expects a tough challenge from West Alabama and isn’t concerned about what happened in March.
“A lot of it is not relevant,” Kinnison said. “We’re all different teams now than we were then. We all saw good arms and good pitching and we think that’s one of their strengths. They have some guys who are athletic and can run. I think they’re balanced.”
The chance to play in a postseason environment in front of the home crowd is something the players are looking forward to.
“It’s the best,” senior right fielder Clay Casey said. “It’s a great atmosphere and when we’re here for the conference tournament it’s 10 times better. You’ve got people that usually don’t get to come out to the games that make time for this event. Playing at night, 8:30, it’s way better. Everybody is out for the team.”
“It makes things a lot better,” senior first baseman Zack Shannon said. “Just having the good guys up in the stands and having them on our side makes everything a lot easier.”
“It keeps everybody comfortable and everybody is excited,” senior designated hitter Brian Lane said. “We’re in our home town and all of our fans are excited and it keeps everybody loose.”
“I think early in the season we didn’t have many home games due to weather and we had to come up to Illinois and play,” senior second baseman Emil Ellis said. “I think the fans are eager to watch us play and we’re eager to play in front of them. I think we play better in front of our home crowd. We get a lot of support from Cleveland. They love the baseball team. We love going out in the community and doing things for them. We just feel comfortable playing in front of our home crowd.”
“It’s nice to play in front of your home fans,” senior centerfielder Jason Popovich said. “There’s a lot of adrenaline and we’ve got the best fans around here in the conference. It’s good for the town and the team.”
The winner of the GSC Tournament will get an automatic berth in the NCAA Division South Region Tournament, which will be played on May 17-20. The top seven teams from the region will advance to the tournament.