Franklin Pierce University opens its latest run in the Division II NCAA Championship National Finals on Saturday against Shippensburg (Pa.) State University in Cary, N.C.
The Ravens, 35-17, won the East Regional and qualified for the eight-team championship for the sixth time since 2003 and first since 2010.
Senior shortstop Dan Kemp and outfielder Nick Lacroix played in the finals as freshmen in 2010, but this is the first go-round for junior first baseman Zach Mathieu of Derry and junior pitchers Trevor Graham and Kevin McGowan of Nashua and most of the team.
Mathieu leads Franklin Pierce with a .342 batting average and 35 runs batted in.
Graham has a 9-2 record and has allowed 69 hits in 102 1/3 innings while striking out 114 and walking just 18.
McGowan is 7-1 and has allowed 71 hits in 75 innings with 60 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Professional scouts have been around all season to watch Graham, Mathieu and McGowan and coach Jayson King expects all three will be picked in next month's Major League Baseball draft.
Graham, in particular, has drawn lots of attention.
"Pretty much every team in Major League Baseball has seen him pitch," King said. "There have been teams at pretty much every one of his starts. He's had a heckuva season for us. Zach has put himself in a pretty good position where I think someone is going to give him a chance to play. And Kevin has taken the ball any time we need him to and given us a chance to win. He's had a great season."
Doug Willey, a sophomore out of Shelburne and Gorham High School, pitched 3 2/3 innings of two-hit relief in a 3-2 win over Southern New Hampshire that got Franklin Pierce into the regional championship game.
Shippensburg, 42-16, lost its opener in the Atlantic Regional to Seton Hill and bounced back with four straight wins, including two straight on Sunday over Seton Hill, to claim its regional title and advance to the championships.
Junior pitcher/infielder Pat Kregeloh leads the Raiders on the mound and at the plate.
He has a .352 batting average with nine home runs and 59 RBIs and a 9-4 pitching record with a 3.68 earned run average and five complete games,
The tournament is divided into two four-team divisions.
Grand Valley State, 34-17, of Allendale Charter Township, Mich., and Minnesota State Mankato, 38-8, play in Franklin Pierce's bracket.
The first-day winners and the first-day losers play each other on Monday.
Tampa, 42-11, takes on Coker College, 37-14, of South Carolina in one first-round game on Sunday in the second bracket and Grand Canyon, 38-17, of Phoenix meets St. Edwards, 41-16, of Austin, Texas, in the other.
The championship game is scheduled for Saturday, June 1 at 7 p.m.
In 2010, Franklin Pierce lost to Kutztown State in its first game and rebounded with wins over Minnesota State Mankato and Kutztown before being eliminated by California, San Diego in the semifinals. It was the third time the Ravens had made the semis.