Schedule for the first day of the NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday, May 23, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):
8:30 AM: #7 seed Spring Arbor (37-7) vs. #10 Jamestown (32-18)
Spring Arbor, located in Spring Arbor, MI, is last year’s runner-up.
Significant wins: Bellevue, Madonna, Saint Xavier (2)
Top position players: Jim Baker (.528, 8 HR, 50 RBI), Jonathan Herbig (.385, 1 HR, 31 RBI), Brad Baker (.368, 7 HR, 39 RBI). Baker’s average is the best in the NAIA.
Top pitchers: Colin O’Connell (9-1, 1.95 ERA), Jesse Bachman (8-2, 2.43 ERA), Cody Sharp (7-1, 3.99 ERA)
Coach: Sam Riggleman, 4th season
Outlook: The Cougars won’t repeat last year’s runner-up performance.
Jamestown (Jamestown, ND) is making their first appearance in the Baseball National Championship since 2004.
Significant wins: Saint Xavier (2), Bellevue (2)
Top position players: Ben Cairns (.399, 8 HR, 37 RBI), Cam McLachlan (.383, 6 HR, 37 RBI)
Top pitchers: Steve Hirchert (4-0, 2.78 ERA), Graham Campbell (9-4, 4.66 ERA)
Coach: Tom Hager, 9th season
Outlook: The Jimmies are looking for their first-ever win in this tournament. They should get it this time.
11 AM: #8 Bellevue (51-15) vs. #9 Ohio Dominican (40-14)
Bellevue (Bellevue, NE) is making their twelvth appearance in the national championship tournament. They finished fourth last year.
Significant wins: Jamestown
Top position players: Matt Anderson (.421, 7 HR, 43 RBI), Nick Damas (.419, 11 HR, 44 RBI)
Top pitchers: Ulysses Roque (12-1, 1.87 ERA), Jon Ganzen (8-0, 2.47 ERA)
Coach: Mike Evans, 20th season
Outlook: The Bruins will get a win against Ohio Dominican.
Ohio Dominican (Columbus, OH) is making their first national championship tournament appearance since 2005.
Significant wins: Embry-Riddle, Missouri Baptist, Saint Xavier (2)
Top position players: Joe Janusik (.425, 3 HR, 50 RBI), Matt Shiring (.371, 4 HR, 22 RBI)
Top pitchers: David Colopy (11-1, 1.98 ERA), Jonathan Kountis (6-2, 3.26 ERA)
Coach: Paul Page, 21st season
Outlook: The Panthers are happy to be here.
3 PM: #4 Azusa Pacific (45-10) vs. #5 Union (47-16)
Azusa Pacific (Azusa, CA) was 1-2 in last year’s tournament.
Significant wins: Fresno Pacific (2), Biola (3). Lost two close games at Lewis-Clark State in the super regional, and had the winning run at second when the second game ended.
Top position players: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.410, 14 HR, 65 RBI), Brice Cutspec (.405, 12 HR, 63 RBI), Matt Venegas (.387, 9 HR, 48 RBI). Stephen Kohatsu (.385, 20 HR, 69 RBI)
Top pitchers: Christian Gagne (6-1, 4.96 ERA), Zach Pettikas (4-0, 5.17 ERA), Jonny Bravo (8-1, 6.19 ERA), Ben Jones (4-1, 3.23 ERA)
Coach: Paul Svagdis, 6th season
Outlook: The Cougars have played well all year against a tough schedule. They have an outside chance of winning this championship.
Union (Barbourville, KY) is making their first trip to the national championship tournament.
Significant wins: U. of the Cumberlands (3), Tennessee Wesleyan (3)
Top position players: Joe Grinstead (.430, 10 HR, 57 RBI), Matt Brady (.370, 8 HR, 50 RBI), Josh Ehringer (.337, 12 HR, 59 RBI)
Top pitchers: Marty Popham (16-1, 2.03 ERA, 12 complete games, 115 1/3 innings pitched) , Lance Doughtery (8-1, 2.52 ERA)
Coach: Bart Osborne, 5th season
Outlook: The Bulldogs should win a game or two. The first game vs. Azusa Pacific will be big for them.
7:30 PM: #3 Lewis-Clark State (53-5) vs. #6 Embry-Riddle (42-16)
Lewis-Clark State (Lewiston, ID) is the defending champion and host team. They have won 15 national championships.
Significant wins: Gonzaga (2), Washington, Western Oregon, Azusa Pacific (2). The Warriors were 3-1 against Division I teams. Interestingly, two of their five losses came from Division III Whitworth and Oregon Tech, who didn’t qualify for the Region I tournament. They came close to losing another game to Oregon Tech.
Top position players: Kyle Greene (.448, 17 HR, 83 RBI), Mickey Pingree (.398, 1 HR, 17 RBI), Ikaika Lester (.378, 8 HR, 49 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Justin Mace (6-0, 1.67 RBI, zero starts), Michael Guerrero (8-1, 2.24 RBI), Matt Fitts (11-0, 3.00 RBI), Ryan Woods (8-1, 1.70 ERA)
Coach: Ed Cheff, 32nd season
Outlook: It is possible for a college team to send eight players to pro ball, and still have a better team the following year? We will have the answer to that question in a few days. If the Warriors manage to win their third consecutive national championship, over a field that appears to be stronger than last year, the answer will be “yes”.
Embry-Riddle (Daytona Beach, FL) returns to Lewiston after a one-year absence, this time with a new coach, Randy Stegall. They were 1-2 in the 2006 tournament.
Significant wins: Tennessee Wesleyan (2), Saint Xavier (2)
Top position players: Colin Gray (.385, 5 HR, 57 RBI), Eric Ogden (.379, 2 HR, 30 RBI), Kyle Albright (.356, 13 HR, 54 RBI)
Top pitchers: Jordan Roberts (10-2, 1.87 ERA), Aaron Varnum (6-2, 2.17 ERA)
Coach: Randy Stegall, 1st year
Outlook: The Eagles are in the same class as Union; they should win a game or two.
5 PM Saturday: #2 Oklahoma City (55-10) vs. Spring Arbor-Jamestown winner
Oklahoma City returns to Lewiston for the first time since winning the national championship in 2005.
Significant wins: Wayland Baptist (2), Lubbock Christian (2)
Top position players: Kirk Walker (.461, 8 HR, 50 RBI), Brent Weaver (.442, 24 HR, 86 RBI), Garrett Regan (.432, 9 HR, 44 RBI), David Dennis (.409, 27 HR, 106 RBI). Dennis leads the NAIA in home runs.
Top pitchers: Tyler Kelsey (9-0, 2.47 RBI), Mike Lee (10-2, 2.61 RBI, 116 strikeouts), Brad Riddle (3-1, 2.29 RBI)
Coach: Denney Crabaugh, 19th season
Outlook: I predicted back in December that the Stars would win this thing. (See CBB’s NAIA pre-season top 10.) That prediction still looks good.
7 PM Saturday: #1 Lee (59-8) vs. Bellevue-Ohio Dominican winner
Lee (Cleveland, TN) went 1-2 at last year’s tournament.
Significant wins: Tennessee Wesleyan (2), Southern Polytechnic (3), Trevecca Nazarene, Auburn-Montgomery (2), Cumberland, U. of Mobile, LSU-Shreveport(2), Embry-Riddle (2)
Top position players: Chris Warters (.441, 17 HR, 74 RBI), Ryan Stovall (.406, 3 HR, 47 RBI), Brian Bistagne (.386, 6 HR, 64 RBI), Kevin Wyman (.367, 12 HR, 68 RBI)
Top pitchers: Dallas Sims (9-1, 3.18 RBI), Jeff Ibarra (9-2, 3.10 ERA), Dave Mason (9-1, 3.08 ERA), Pablo Lopez (9-0, 1.46 ERA, 11 saves), Ryan Stovall (1-1, 0.53 ERA)
Coach: Mark Brew, 2nd season
Outlook: Like Azusa Pacific, the Flames have an outside shot at winning this tournament.
If the top four seeds all win their first games, Monday’s matchups will be Oklahoma City vs. Lewis-Clark State and Lee vs. Azusa Pacific.