Baseball Weekend Preview
Notes: Southern Conn. owned 368 strikeouts entering the week
There was moment last week when Grand Valley State head coach Steve Lyon thought the amazing run was finished for his Lakers. GVSU was on the cusp of 20 consecutive wins but found itself in a 5-0 hole against Northwood.
The Lakers are not the No. 1 team in the nation by mistake, though. So rather than fold, they battled back for a 7-6 win to stretch their win streak, which now stands at 25. It's the longest streak in school history, and Lyon isn’t all that surprised.
“When we were down (5-0), I thought that maybe the streak was over,” Lyon said. “But our guys don’t quit. They stay positive and play with a lot of confidence.”
GVSU will take that confidence into the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio, this weekend. The Lakers (45-3) will take on Saginaw Valley State (24-22), the last team to beat them this year, in their opening-round game.
GVSU has the best winning percentage in the country at .938, and while the 6-1 loss to the Cardinals in early April left the Lakers a little stunned, they go into the tournament as the favorite. The Lakers have won six of the league's eight tournaments in history.
“We are excited about the opportunity to play in the tournament,” Lyon said. “There are only four teams and everyone is going to play hard. Nothing will come easy for us. We know we have to be at our best if we want to win.”
Pitching and hitting have propelled the Lakers through this remarkable season. Their staff has a 2.55 ERA and junior Ryan Garman is 8-1 with a 1.39 ERA. He has 40 strikeouts. Junior Kyle Schepel is 9-0 and owns a 1.86 ERA. He has put away 58 batters on strikeouts.
Freshman Billy Maple looks nothing like a rookie. Maple is 7-0 with 37 strikeouts on the season.
Offensively, the Lakers have been a force to be reckoned with. They are batting .338 as a team and nine players are hitting .300 or better on the year. Junior Garrett Yatch is hitting .392 with 25 RBI while senior Cory Phillips is batting .390 with 28 RBIs.
Junior Steve Anderson, the owner of a .386 average, has hit seven home runs, and has driven in 56 runs.
“We seem to have put it all together,” Lyon said. “We have gotten solid starting pitching and a great effort out of our bullpen. We have also been getting big hits all through our lineup. This team plays hard and they are confident.”
The Lakers have their eyes set on a run at the national championship. They are the top team in the Midwest Region and while the road to a title will be filled with challenges, Lyon believes his team is ready to take its game to another level for the postseason.
“You have to get breaks,” Lyon said. “We feel like we can compete with anyone in the country, but we know to do that, we have to continue to play hard and give a great effort in every game. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”
Great Lakes Valley Conference
Southern Indiana won the national championship in 2010 and will take their first step toward winning another title when it plays in the GLVC tournament this weekend.
The Screaming Eagles (31-17), ranked 20th in the country and second in the Midwest Region, play Rockhurst (23-24) in the tourney opener at GSC Ballpark in Sauget, Ill.
Senior Tyler Choate has been the go-to guy for USI all season and he will need to continue his stellar play if the Screaming Eagles are going to nail down another league title. Choate is batting .361 and has 45 RBIs. He has a knack for tallying extra-base hits as well, coming through with 14 doubles and six homers.
Choate is also a viable threat on the mound. He is 6-1 on the year and has a 2.37 ERA with 28 strikeouts. Dan Marcacci is 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA and has recorded four saves while racking up 39 strikeouts.
Redshirt junior Brad Vance has been a key weapon for the Screaming Eagles as well. The veteran has hit 17 doubles and is hitting .313 with 44 RBIs.
Rockhurst has lost three of its last four games and lost twice to USI during the season. Ryan Porter, hitting .392 with six homers and 29 RBIs, will need to have a big game for the Hawks to have any shot at an upset.
California Collegiate Athletic Association
UC-San Diego will enter the CCAA tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Tritons (38-12) have won their last 17 games and will look to keep the momentum rolling as they take aim at a third consecutive conference tournament championship at Klein Family Field in Stockton, Calif.
The Tritons, ranked seventh in the country and first in the West Region, open tourney play this afternoon against Cal Poly Pomona (30-19), which won only once in four games against UC-San Diego during the regular season but has plenty to play for as it comes into this tourney sitting in fifth in the region.
Danny Susdorf and Blake Tagmyer have provided much of the firepower for the Tritons, batting .371 and .352, respectively. Susdorf has knocked in 28 runs while Tagmyer has tallied 12 doubles and 30 RBIs.
Elias Tumas has yet to lose on the mound, fashioning a 6-0 record and 1.51 ERA for the 2010 national runner-up. Tim Shibuya is 10-3 and has struck out 90 batters while allowing just nine walks.
The Broncos feature Tino Martinez Award semifinalist Travis Taijeron, who is the top home run hitter in the league (14) and has hit .459 during the last month of the regular season. The Broncos were just 26-27 last season and an upset of the Tritons would certainly aid their effort to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
St. Mary’s (Texas) has won 24 of its last 26 games, including 13 consecutive, and heads into the Heartland Conference tournament eager to take care of business. The fourth-ranked Rattlers (42-8) square off against Texas A&M International (19-31) in its opener Thursday at V.J. Keefe Field in San Antonio.
Senior Sammy Rivas will certainly put St. Mary’s in a position to shoot for the tourney title and carry the momentum into the NCAA tournament later this month. Rivas is a semifinalist for the Tino Martinez Award, and one of the top closers in the country. Rivas has not allowed a run and has registered 13 saves while fashioning a 4-0 record. He has given up only 22 hits in 28 appearances and has struck out 38 while walking only eight.
Junior Tyler Migl has been a steady contributor on offense, batting .392 with 37 RBIs. Senior Jason Garcia is hitting .364 and has driven in 42 runs.
The Dustdevils are in the tournament for the first time and won four more games than they did a year ago. But they haven’t had much luck against St. Mary’s, losing five of six, including three during their current eight-game losing streak.
But A&M International won’t go down without a fight. It has five All-Heartland Conference selections for the first time in school history, including senior Chris Collazo, who owns a .369 average and has scored 45 runs. Junior Austin Voros (.378, 30 RBIs) and junior Will Wurth (.368, 70 hits) were also first-team picks.
Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association
Central Missouri and Emporia State could very well be on a collision course for the MIAA championship this weekend at CommunityAmerica Park in Kansas City.
The fifth-ranked Mules and sixth-ranked Hornets are the top two seeds in the tourney and met a year ago for the title, with UCM winning the title.
The Mules (42-8) are led by senior Nick DeBiasse, a semifinalist for the Tino Martinez Award. DeBiasse is batting .471 and has crushed nine home runs to go along with 21 doubles. He has knocked in 51 runs as well. Teammate Tyler Anthony owns a .379 average and has scored 43 runs.
Matt Curtis has been an anchor of the pitching staff all season, entering tourney play with a 9-0 record. He has 44 strikeouts while Don Lisi is 8-2 with a 3.93 ERA for the Mules, who have won their last 12 games and are ranked second in the South Central Region.
ESU (41-8), which shared the regular season championship with UCM, is led by Dillon Hazlett, who is batting .427 with 38 RBIs. The senior has hit 24 doubles and has scored 54 runs. Amos Parker (.367) and Joe Vaskas (.329, 14 home runs) will play key roles in the success of the Hornets as well.
Brandon Faulkner is 8-2 on the season with 41 strikeouts while Brett Kinsel is 5-0 with 34 strikeouts.
UCM opens tourney play against Fort Hays State or Missouri Western while ESU will battle Nebraska-Omaha or Washburn in its first game.
East Coast Conference
Molloy is going to need a strong run in the ECC tournament this weekend to keep its hopes alive of earning an NCAA tourney berth. The Lions (31-18) are ranked eighth in the East Region and need to finish in the top six to make the tourney field.
They will be favored to win the ECC tournament this weekend at Golden Lions Field in Brookhaven, N.Y., and will begin their journey today against St. Thomas Aquinas (25-23-1), which is making its seventh ECC tournament trip in the last nine seasons.
Junior pitcher Chuck Fontana will be counted on to help lead the way. The Tino Martinez Award semifinalist and pitcher of the year in the league is 9-0 with a 1.78 ERA. Fontana has 101 strikeouts and has given up just 15 runs.
Robert LaRusso, the ECC Player of the Year, is hitting .292 on the season and has belted nine home runs, the most on the team. The senior has also knocked in 48 runs while freshman Carlos Guzman is batting .363 with 22 RBIs.
Vin Malzahn, a grad student for Aquinas, owns a .331 average and has 33 RBIs. He has also tallied 14 doubles. Robert Frank has been solid on the hill. He is 6-2 and has a 3.36 ERA. He has 62 strikeouts as well.
Southern Connecticut will be the top seed in the Northeast-10 tournament this weekend and will count on its phenomenal pitching staff to pave the way for a championship.
The eighth-ranked Owls (37-4-1) have won nine consecutive games and feature a staff that owns collective ERA of 1.68. It has combined for 368 strikeouts and only 91 walks and has also allowed three runs or less in 13 consecutive games, recording five shutouts during the stretch.
Mike Johnson (1.03 ERA, 12 saves) and Chris Zbin (9-1, 1.09 ERA, 100 strikeouts) have helped anchor the staff while the offense has been paced by Ryan Geffert, who is batting .310 with 46 RBIs, the second-most in the conference.
Southern Connecticut, ranked first in the East Region, takes on Massachusetts-Lowell (35-10) in its tourney opener on Friday. The game will have regional implications riding on it as Lowell comes in ranked fifth in the region.