NAPERVILLE — The Millikin baseball team will be playing in its first CCIW Tournament in 29 years on Thursday when the third-seeded Big Blue play No. 6 North Park at top-seeded North Central's Zimmerman Field in Naperville.
For the first time in conference history, the CCIW Tournament will feature the top six teams. The No. 2 seed is Augustana, No. 4 is Illinois Wesleyan and No. No. 5 is Wheaton.
Teams will still play in a double elimination format, with the championship held on Saturday.
The tournament winner will earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship. The full national field will be announced at 11 a.m. on May 13 via an NCAA.com selection show.
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Millikin (21-18) is ranked seventh in the Central Region in the NCAA Division III Baseball Regional rankings released on May 8 after finishing CCIW play with a 14-10 mark. The regional rankings are one of the criteria used to select at-large team for the NCAA Tournament.
North Central (28-11, fifth in the Central Region) is coming off its conference-record fifth-straight CCIW regular season title and is making its 24th tournament appearance in program history. Augustana (26-13-1, sixth in the Central Region) is making its 22nd appearance and fourth-straight since winning in 2016, while Illinois Wesleyan is making its conference-leading 32nd appearance in program history and first since 2017.
Millikin is led at the plate by Jon Walters (.338 average with a team-leading eight home runs and 12 doubles) and on the mound by Bement graduate Connor Gross (3.80 ERA and a team-leading 66 strkeouts).
North Park (22-16) lost two of three to Millikin in the regular season, including a 10-9, 12-inning Millikin win on April 28.