NAIA National Championship Preview

NAIA Baseball National Championship logoSchedule for the first day of the 53rd NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday, May 22, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):

8:30 AM: #8 seed Campbellsville (39-10) vs. #9 Lee (50-12)

Campbellsville (Campbellsville, KY) is making their first trip to the Baseball National Championship. They are the champions of the Mid-South Conference.

Bryan Fuller

Bryan Fuller

Nickname: Tigers
Significant wins: Union (KY), 2-1 vs. Kansas Wesleyan
Strength of schedule: #13
Top position players: Brian Chase (.473, 17 home runs, 70 RBI), Jimmy Voelker (.383, 51 RBI), Chris Curley (.407, 19 home runs, 68 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Ian Pick (6-0, 2.13 ERA), Bryan Fuller (7-1, 1.58 ERA, 49 strikeouts), Marc Wilson (8-0, 3.03 ERA, 53 strikeouts)
Coach: Beauford Sanders, 19th season
Outlook: The Tigers got this far because of a phenomenal performance by Fuller, who got his only two starts of the season in the sectional tournament vs. Kansas Wesleyan, and pitched 21 consecutive shutout innings. The Tigers will be facing stronger hitting here.

Lee (Cleveland, TN) is making their third straight trip to Lewiston under Head Coach Mark Brew, fourth appearance overall. They were runners-up in 2008.

Nickname: Flames
Significant wins: Tennessee Wesleyan, 3-0 vs. Auburn-Montgomery, 2-0 vs. Belhaven
Strength of schedule: #27
Top position players: Chris Warters (.447, 16 home runs, 77 RBI), Julian Alvarez (.425, 18 home runs, 75 RBI), Brian Bistagne (.386), Elvis Sosa (.349, 66 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Matthew Gilson (10-3, 2.96 ERA, 59 strikeouts), Joel Matthews (7-1, 4.06 RBI), Dave Mason (10-3, 4.16 RBI)
Coach: Mark Brew, 3rd season
Outlook: I don’t know whether the Flames like to be reminded of this, but they came within one out of winning the championship last year. It’s unlikely they will repeat this performance; they finished behind Southern Polytechnic and Berry in the Southern States Athletic Conference this year.

Noon: #4 Berry (45-14) vs. #5 Southern Polytechnic (51-8)

Berry (Mount Berry, GA) is making their first trip to Lewiston. They were runners-up to Southern Polytechnic in the Southern States Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Vikings
Significant wins: Belhaven, 2-1 vs. Lee, 3-2 vs. Southern Polytechnic, 2-0 vs. Saint Xavier
Strength of schedule: #25
Top position players: Patrick Taylor (.425), Andrew Starr (.411, 56 RBI), Eric Weiss (.373)
Top Pitchers: Matt McCalley (10-0, 1.27 ERA), Chris Rearick (8-2, 3.25 ERA, 55 strikeouts)
Coach: David Beasley, 12th season
Outlook: The Vikings and Hornets are travelling all the way to the Northwest to replay the conference championship, and one team will hand the other a first-round loss. The Vikings aren’t good enough to go the distance.

Sean Teague

Sean Teague

Southern Polytechnic (Marietta, GA) is making their first trip to the Baseball National Championship since 1986. They are the champions of the Southern States Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Runnin’ Hornets
Significant wins: William Carey, Savannah College of Art and Design, 2-0 vs. Tennessee Wesleyan, 3-1 vs. Lee
Strength of schedule: #14
Top position players: Jake Barrow (.424), Jono Waugh (.394, 14 home runs, 59 RBI), Daniel Hester (.288, 10 home runs, 56 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Sean Teague (8-0, 1.13 ERA, 66 strikeouts), David Harden (10-2, 2.66 ERA, 70 strikeouts), Mark Doll (11-2, 2.91 ERA), Drew Saberhagen (3-1, 6.52 ERA). Teague pitched a perfect game against Reinhardt on April 23. Saberhagen is the son of Royals, Mets, and Red Sox star Bret Saberhagen.
Coach: Matt Griffin, 6th season
Outlook: The Hornets have been tough all year, and have an outside shot at winning the championship.

3 PM: #3 Point Loma Nazarene (41-11) vs. #6 Embry-Riddle (44-12)

Andrew Bovich

Andrew Bovich

Point Loma Nazarene (San Diego, CA) is making their fourth trip to the Baseball National Championship; the last one was in 2004. They are the champions of the Golden State Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Sea Lions
Significant wins: British Columbia, 3-2 vs. Fresno Pacific
Strength of schedule: #1
Top position players: Kurt Steinhauer (.385, 16 home runs, 46 RBI), Wes Kartch (.347), Kaohi Downing (.345, 12 home runs, 44 RBI), Travis McCleary (.308, 10 home runs, 49 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Andrew Bovich (12-0, 1.62 ERA, 54 strikeouts), Chris Honer (5-0, 3.11 ERA), Brandon Dixon (9-3, 4.04 ERA, 56 strikeouts)
Coach: Joe Schaefer, 1st season
Outlook: The Sea Lions can win this thing.

Embry-Riddle (Daytona Beach, FL) is making their eighth appearance in Lewiston. They were 2-2 at last year’s tournament. They are the champions of the Sun Conference.

Nickname: Eagles
Significant wins: Union (KY), 4-1 vs. Savannah College of Art and Design, 1-1 vs. Saint Xavier
Strength of schedule: #32
Top position players: Aaron Tea (.370), Joel Blomberg (.355), Austin Goolsby (.344, 12 home runs, 55 RBI), Branden Roper-Hubbert (.335), Pat McCrory (.287, and 4-1,
2.64 ERA, 36 strikeouts on the mound). McCrory played all nine positions in a game this season.
Top pitchers: Justin Zinkovich (13-0, 2.00 ERA, 91 strikeouts), Aaron Varnum (3-2, 2.67 ERA), Austin Quinn (11-2, 3.62 ERA)
Coach: Randy Stegall, 2nd year
Outlook: The Eagles have an outside chance to win the tournament, but they have a tough first-round game.

7:30 PM: #7 Lewis-Clark State (39-13) vs. #10 Fresno Pacific (38-19)

Matt Stablefeld

Matt Stablefeld

Lewis-Clark State (Lewiston, ID) is the defending champion and host team. They have won 16 national championships.

Nickname: Warriors
Significant wins: Gonzaga, Washington, 2-1 vs. Western Oregon, 2-2 vs. Fresno Pacific, 3-3 vs. British Columbia
Strength of schedule: #11
Top position players: Josh Ashenbrenner (.455), Ben Ornelas (.403, 7 home runs, 44 RBI), Sean Halton (.366, 15 home runs, 62 RBI), Brian Ward (.320)
Top Pitchers: Michael Guerrero (4-0, 1.70 RBI), Dustin Willis (6-1, 2.01 RBI), Tom Peale (5-1, 3.72 ERA), Matt Stabelfeld (4-0, 3.84 ERA, 60 strikeouts
Coach: Ed Cheff, 33rd season
Outlook: It isn’t likely that the Warriors will win their fourth straight championship, but you can’t count them out. They played a strong schedule, got wins against two Division I teams, and have a lot of pitching depth. The opener against Fresno Pacific should be a good one. The Sunbirds came to Lewiston last month and split a four-game series.

Justin Kenney

Justin Keeney

Fresno Pacific (Fresno, CA) is making their first trip to this tournament. They finished second to Point Loma Nazarene in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Sunbirds
Significant wins: British Columbia, 2-2 vs. Lewis-Clark State, 1-1 vs. Madonna, 2-0 vs. Bellevue
Strength of schedule: #2
Top position players: Case Rigby (.386, 46 RBI), Dwight Nixon (.375), Justin Keeney (.283, 10 home runs, 45 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Brian Oliver (2-5, 2.30 ERA), Daniel Brodie (5-0, 2.38 ERA), Kelwn Schellenberg (8-1, 3.24 ERA)
Coach: Oscar Hirschkorn, 4th season
Outlook: The Sunbirds should finish in the middle of the pack.

3 PM Saturday: #1 Lubbock Christian (47-7) vs. Campbellsville-Lee winner

R.L. Eisenbach

R.L. Eisenbach

Lubbock Christian (Lubbock, TX) is making their eighth appearance in the tournament. The last one was in 2006. They won the championship in 1983, under coach Larry Hays. They are the Champions of the Sooner Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Chaparrals
Significant wins: 3-0 vs. Houston Baptist, 2-1 vs. Oklahoma City, 4-2 vs. Wayland Baptist
Strength of schedule: #19
Top position players: Will Stramp (.508, 24 home runs, 89 RBI), Ross Blondin (.445, 23 home runs, 92 RBI), Tanner Rindels (.400, 15 home runs), Jaime Armendariz (.384)
Top Pitchers: R.L. Eisenbach (12-0, 4.52 ERA, 108 strikeouts), Charlie Aceto (5-0, 3.26 ERA), Rene Garcia (9-1, 3.43 ERA), Jake Cunningham (7-2, 4.20 ERA, 91 strikeouts)
Coach: Nathan Blackwood, 6th season
Outlook: The Chaparrals have beaten everything that has come their way. They are the favorite to win the national championship.

7 PM Saturday: #2 Oklahoma City (51-7) vs. Lewis-Clark State-Fresno Pacific winner

Brent Weaver

Brent Weaver

Oklahoma City is making their 11th appearance in this tournament. They won it in 2005, and were 2-2 (third place) in last year’s tournament. They are the runners-up to Lubbock Christian in the Sooner Athletic Conference.

Nickname: Stars
Significant wins: Bellevue, LSU-Shreveport, 3-0 vs. Wayland Baptist
Strength of schedule: #26
Top position players: Brent Weaver (.436, 37 home runs, 89 RBI), B.J. Wheeler (.424), Steve Vitale (.407), Jason Machado (.374, 21 home runs, 80 RBI), Landon Camp (.349, 22 home runs, 81 RBI). Weaver is one home run short of the NAIA record of 38.
Top Pitchers: Zac Coplon (1-0, 2.33 ERA), Asher Tolliver (10-1, 3.63 ERA), Garrett Parker (8-0, 3.74 ERA, 95 strikeouts), Justin Parker (9-2, 4.46 ERA, 86 strikeouts), David Odquist (8-1, 4.50 ERA)
Coach: Denney Crabaugh, 20th season
Outlook: The Stars come in with a lot of wins against a weak schedule. They’re probably as good as last year’s entry, but this is a stronger field.

Predicted order of finish

Lubbock Christian
Point Loma Nazarene
Southern Polytechnic
Embry-Riddle
Fresno Pacific
Lewis-Clark State
Oklahoma City
Lee
Berry
Campbellsville

If the top four seeds all win their first games, Monday’s matchups will be Lubbock Christian vs. Berry and Oklahoma City vs. Point Loma Nazarene.

All games are webcast by KOZE Radio (audio and free) and watchnaia.com (video and $6.95/game, or $23.95 for the series). Live stats are available for all games by clicking here.

  • dcl26

    Southern Poly will suprise a lot of people. They are solid up and down their roster.