NAIA National Championship Preview

NAIA Baseball National Championship

Schedule for the first day of the 54th NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday, May 28, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):

8:30 AM: #7 seed Embry-Riddle (44-17) vs. #10 Tennessee Wesleyan (46-16)

Jonathan KountisEmbry-Riddle (Daytona Beach, FL) is making their ninth appearance in Lewiston, and their seventh in the past eight years. They were 0-2 at last year’s tournament. They are the champions of the Sun Conference.
Nickname: Eagles
Significant wins: Florida Southern, 5-3 vs. Saint Thomas, 1-3 vs. Cumberland
Strength of schedule: #30
Top position players: Austin Goolsby (.329, 12 home runs, 54 RBI), Branden Roper-Hubbert (.294, 10 home runs, 50 RBI), Steve Sabins (.340), J.T. Warmoth (.340)
Top pitchers: Justin Zinkovich (10-2, 2.69 ERA, 86 strikeouts), Jonathan Kountis (7-4, 3.23 ERA, 87 strikeouts), Austin Quinn (11-2, 1.70 ERA)
Coach: Randy Stegall, 3rd year
Outlook: The Eagles won’t go two-and-out again, but they don’t have enough talent to win this tournament.

Tennessee Wesleyan (Athens, TN) is making their first-ever appearance in Lewiston.
Nickname: Bulldogs
Significant wins: LSU-Shreveport, 2-2 vs. Southern Polytechnic, 1-1 vs. Lee
Strength of schedule: #49
Top position players: Jonathan Smith (.413, 61 RBI), Cody Gaskill (.403, 21 home runs, 94 RBI), Rafael Carlot (.337, 12 home runs, 52 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Justin Crowell (9-4, 7.08 ERA), Matt McCracken (5-0, 3.49 ERA), Hamilton Bennett (7-2, 3.86 ERA, 91 strikeouts)
Coach: Billy Berry, 5th season
Outlook: The Bulldogs are happy to be here.

noon: #8 Belhaven (43-15) vs. #9 Point Loma Nazarene (38-18)

Belhaven (Jackson, MS) is making their first trip to the Baseball National Championship. They won the regular season championship of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference.
Nickname: Blazers
Significant wins: 1-1 vs. Union U. (TN), Missouri Baptist
Strength of schedule: #46
Top position players: Craig Dean (.421), Timmy Foster (.407, 10 home runs, 74 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Brandt Hinton (12-0, 3.30 ERA), Chris Bennett (6-4, 4.24 ERA, 73 strikeouts), Wade Broyles (3-0, 1.66 ERA, 70 strikeouts)
Coach: Hill Denson, 10th season
Outlook: The Blazers are happy to be here.

Point Loma Nazarene (San Diego, CA) is making their fifth trip to the Baseball National Championship; they were last year’s runners-up.
Nickname: Sea Lions
Significant wins: UC San Diego, British Columbia
Strength of schedule: #5
Top position players: Steven Winnick (.364), Allen Boyer (.351, 18 home runs), Tyler Kuehl (.348), Wes Kartch (.313)
Top Pitchers: Steven Winnick (9-3, 2.82 ERA), Brandon Dixon (10-0, 3.43 ERA, 63 strikeouts), Chad Blauer (11-2, 3.90 ERA, 81 strikeouts)
Coach: Joe Schaefer, 2st season
Outlook: The Sea Lions have solid pitching and an excellent coach, but they need to figure out a way to beat Cal Baptist. If you want to pick a long shot to win this tournament, pick Point Loma or Lee.

3 PM: #4 Lee (49-11) vs. #5 Lubbock Christian (46-14)

Lee (Cleveland, TN) is making their fourth straight trip to Lewiston under Head Coach Mark Brew, fifth appearance overall. They were runners-up in 2008. They were 3-2 in lasy year’s tournament. They are the regular season champions of the Southern States Athletic Conference. (The conference tournament final was rained out.)
Nickname: Flames
Significant wins: 3-1 vs. Southern Polytechnic
Strength of schedule: #37
Top position players: Jose Cuevas (.380), Tanner Moore (.379, 20 home runs, 67 RBI),
Junior Rodriguez (.372, 14 home runs, 67 RBI), J.J. Costantino (.369)
Top Pitchers: Matthew Gilson (9-0, 2.05 ERA, 64 strikeouts), Aaron Everett (5-6, 2.17 ERA), Scott Swinson (10-0, 3.20 ERA)
Coach: Mark Brew, 4th season. His record is a phenomenal 216-50.
Outlook: The Flames haven’t really been tested so far this season. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with as long as Brew is their coach.

Joe StaleyLubbock Christian (Lubbock, TX) is the defending NAIA champion. They are making their ninth appearance in the tournament. They are the regular season champions of the Sooner Athletic Conference.
Nickname: Chaparrals
Significant wins: 1-1 vs. Texas Wesleyan, 2-2 vs. Angelo State, 4-2 vs. Oklahoma City
Strength of schedule: #1
Top position players: Joe Staley (.448, 12 home runs, 69 RBI), Doug Kroll (.385, 22 home runs, 71 RBI), Richard Bohlken (.359, 26 home runs, 74 RBI), Ross Blondin (.357, 10 home runs, 68 RBI)
Top Pitchers: Tanner Vickers (2-3, 4.80 ERA), Hunter Scott (10-3, 5.35 ERA), Paul Gonzalez (10-1, 5.38 ERA, 122 strikeouts)
Coach: Nathan Blackwood, 7th season
Outlook: The Chaparrals have an inside chance to win their second straight championship.

7:30 PM: #3 Cal Baptist (48-13) vs. #6 Oklahoma City (49-14)

Drew MadrigalCal Baptist (Riverside, CA) is making their second appearance in this tournament; the first one was in 1997. They are the champions of the Golden State Athletic Conference.
Nickname: Lancers
Significant wins: 5-0 vs. Point Loma Nazarene, 2-0 vs. Madonna
Strength of schedule: #15
Top position players: Garrett Rau (.396), Sharif Othman (.392, 16 home runs, 65 RBI), Brian Sharp (.384), Drew Madrigal (.371)
Top Pitchers: Taylor Siemens (10-1, 2.67 ERA), Erik Wallace (6-0, 3.19 ERA), Drew Madrigal (11-2, 3.77 ERA, 88 strikeouts)
Coach: Gary Adcock, 7th season
Outlook: The Lancers had a strong finish to the season. This game pits the champions of the NAIA’s two best conferences against each other, and should produce some excellent baseball.

Mike RichardOklahoma City is making their 12th appearance in this tournament. They won it in 2005, and were 2-2 (fourth place) in last year’s tournament. They won the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament.
Nickname: Stars
Significant wins: 2-0 vs. Texas Wesleyan, 1-3 vs. Cumberland, 2-4 vs. Lubbock Christian, Southeastern Oklahoma State
Strength of schedule: #3
Top position players: Chad Carman (.410, 13 home runs), Kirk Walker (.407), Mark Purser (.402), Steve Vitale (.387, 24 home runs), Matt Presley (.374, 24 home runs), Garrett Regan (.372)
Top Pitchers: Mike Richard (10-3, 4.48 ERA), Dustin Williams (12-2, 5.22 ERA)
Coach: Denney Crabaugh, 21th season
Outlook: Which Sooner Athletic Conference team has the best chance of winning the championship? Flip a coin.

Saturday, 3 PM: #2 Cumberland (53-9) vs. Embry-Riddle-Tennessee Wesleyan winner

Shawn SchaeferCumberland (Lebanon, TN) is making their 11th appearance in this tournament, and their first since 2007. They won it in 2004.
Nickname: Bulldogs
Significant wins: Missouri Baptist, 3-1 vs. Oklahoma City, 2-1 vs. Embry-Riddle, 3-1 vs. Campbellsville, 4-2 vs. Union U. (TN)
Strength of schedule: #7
Top position players: Matt Greener (.469, 25 home runs, 91 RBI), Sam Kikla (.375, 17 home runs), Kris Miller (.368, 23 home runs, 79 RBI), David Fanshawe (.342), Max Kautz (.325)
Top Pitchers: Shawn Schaefer (13-0, 2.71 ERA, 97 strikeouts), Aaron Wilkerson (12-1, 2.13 ERA, 105 strikeouts). Schaefer made two starts for British Columbia in the 2006 tournament, got a win and a loss.
Coach: Woody Hunt, 28th season
Outlook: The Bulldogs deserve to be ranked #2. They have excellent hitting and pitching, and have an inside chance of winning the championship.

Saturday, 7 PM: #1 Lewis-Clark State (47-3) vs. Belhaven-Point Loma winner

Lewis-Clark State (Lewiston, ID) is the host team. They have won 16 national championships, most recently in 2008. They were 1-2 at last year’s tournament.
Nickname: Warriors
Significant wins: 5-1 vs. British Columbia, 5-0 vs. College of Idaho, 2-0 vs. Seattle U., Western Oregon
Strength of schedule: #16
Top position players: Danny Anguiano (.446), Brian Burke (.384, 16 home runs, 64 RBI), Pat Murray (.364), Josh Ashenbrenner (.352)
Top Pitchers: Henry Buenrostro (6-0 [all in relief], 1.64 ERA), Colby Hawk (7-0, 2.15 ERA), Tyler Knigge (8-0, 2.16 ERA, 60 strikeouts), Tyrell Poggemeyer (4-1, 2.28 ERA)
Coach: Ed Cheff, 34rd season
Outlook: The Warriors are the team to beat. They lost only three games this season against respectable competition.

Predicted order of finish

Lewis-Clark State
Cumberland
Lubbock Christian
Cal Baptist
Oklahoma City
Point Loma Nazarene
Lee
Embry-Riddle
Tennessee Wesleyan
Belhaven

If the top four seeds all win their first games, Monday’s matchups will be Cal Baptist vs. Cumberland and Lee vs. Lewis-Clark State.

All games are webcast by KOZE Radio (audio and free) and watchnaia.com (video and $8.95/day, or $24.95 for the series). Live stats are available for all games by clicking here.