Wittenberg earns home game in first round of playoffs

First-round opponent is a program Wittenberg has never played


Tigers finished regular season 10-0 by beating Wooster on Saturday.

Wittenberg Tigers coach Joe Fincham's thinking on Selection Sunday never changes.

"Expect the unexpected," he said.

Seventeen years after the Tigers were sent to Abilene, Texas, in the first round — still the biggest playoff surprise for the Tigers after all these years — they were handed an unknown opponent in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Division III playoffs.

RELATED: Fincham creates ‘culture of toughness’ at Wittenberg

The bracket was released at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and No. 12 Wittenberg (10-0) found out it will play No. 15 Frostburg State (9-1) at noon Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field.

"The seniors, they're deserving of a home game," Fincham said. "I'm excited for them to be able to wear the red jerseys again."

If Wittenberg wins, it would play at home in the second round, too. Wittenberg or Frostburg will play No. 14 Washington & Jefferson (10-0) or No. 21 Johns Hopkins (9-1) in the second round. No. 2 Mount Union (10-0) looms in the upper half of the bracket as the most likely opponent for whichever of those four teams advances to the national quarterfinals.

This will be the first matchup between Wittenberg and Frostburg State. The Bobcats lost 27-24 to No. 13 Wesley in the regular season.

Frostburg State, located in Frostburg, Md., received an at-large bid. It was the runner-up in the New Jersey Athletic Conference behind Wesley. The Bobcats lost 38-14 to St. John Fisher in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Fincham and his staff started the process of preparing for Frostburg right away.

"I'm always excited to be back in the playoffs," Fincham said. "I'm excited about our team. We're playoff worthy. Guys have worked hard. We've played a challenging schedule when you think about winning on the road like places Westminster, Wabash and DePauw. We'll see. Obviously in big ballgames sometimes, it's about matchups. I have no idea how we'll match up with Frostburg State."

Wittberg completed a 10-0 regular season with a 47-21 victory Saturday over Wooster at Edwards-Maurer Field. The Tigers won the North Coast Athletic Conference championship for the seventh time in nine years.

This will be Wittenberg’s 19th playoff appearance. It has a 22-16 record in the postseason. It has won its first-round game three times in its last four appearances but has not made it past the second round since beating Mount St. Joseph and Trine at home in 2009.

RELATED: Wilson has been ‘dynamite’ for Wittenberg

Wittenberg lost in the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2001 to Mount Union and to Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2009. It was the national runner-up in 1978 and 1979 and won the Stagg Bowl in 1973 and 1975. It was the national poll champion in 1962, 1964 and 1969.

Mary Hardin-Baylor won the national title in 2016, breaking an 11-year run in which either Mount Union or Wisconsin-Whitewater won every season.

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