Dragons step in to help NCAA, will co-host of DIII regional at The Hop

Four-team NCAA regional set for this weekend

Photo of Pete Hayes

ALTON - If you put in artificial turf, they will come. Just ask Alton River Dragons general manager Dallas Martz.

The River Dragons will be playing host to four previously unexpected visitors this weekend at Lloyd Hopkins Field after agreeing Monday to serve as co-hosts, with Webster University, of an NCAA Division III baseball regional tournament. 

The NCAA announced that the regional tournament will be played May 19-22 at Hopkins Field, affectionately known as The Hop. It is the home of the River Dragons of the summer collegiate Prospect League, as well the home of Marquette Catholic High School's baseball team.

The tournament will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Game times, the format and ticket availability will be announced as soon as possible, Martz said.

"Webster won their conference tournament and that meant they would be the hosts for the regional," Martz said. "Originally they had planned on playing it (at GSC Credit Union Ballpark) in Sauget, but it wasn't available. We were contacted Friday and began discussing the possibility of us hosting it."

Lloyd Hopkins Field underwent a major refurbishment over the recent off season. An artificial playing surface, along with a video board and other improvements were made.

"We knew the upgrades, especially the turf, would put us in play for a lot of events," Martz said. "We're happy to be able to serve as the host site."

After the details were hammered out by Webster University, the NCAA, the River Dragons and the Alton Parks and Recreation Department, Martz began planning for guests.

"This is a great thing for us," Martz said. "We're glad we can help out Webster and the NCAA with the playing site and it's great exposure for our new facility and can be a good recruiting tool for the River Dragons."

Webster University earned its berth at the regional by winning the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament last week. Following the NCAA Division II selection show Monday morning, the rest of this weekend's field was set and will include Crown University from Minnesota, College of Wooster from Ohio and Bethel University from Minnesota.

First-game pairings will include Webster (37-6) vs. Crown (30-13) and Wooster (29-13) vs. Bethel (33-9).

"The teams have a combined 129 wins," Martz said. "There will be some really good baseball on display. I'm glad we're able to help. it's a win-win."

Webster University's Gorlocks earned the postseason berth Saturday  when they defeated the Spalding University Golden Eagles 6-5 in 12 innings to capture their fourth consecutive SLIAC Tournament, the 12th in Webster history. Principia College and Blackburn College are also among the members of the SLIAC.

Winners from regional tournament around the country will advance to super-regional action set for May 27-28. The ultimate goal is a berth at the NCAA Division II National Tournament June 3-8 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"It sort of fell into our lap in a way," Martz said, "but this is good for all concerned. We will run the ballpark, including the scoreboard and video board and all. Webster will have staff here to take care of their part of things with the NCAA."