2018 NAIA Baseball Opening Round Preview: Bowling Green Bracket

Bowling Green, Ky. – Midland University baseball will make their fourth appearance in five years at the NAIA Baseball Opening Round on Monday. The Warriors earned the No. 5-seed at the Bowling Green Bracket. They are joined in the five-team bracket by No. 1-seed University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, No. 2-seed Campbellsville University, No. 3-seed Reinhardt University, and No. 4-seed Bellevue University.

Bowling Green is host to one of nine sites around the country with the champion of each bracket advancing the 2018 NAIA Baseball World Series, along with host Lewis-Clark State College, in Lewiston, Idaho.

For a complete list of the teams and sites, along with updates, click here.

Live video coverage for the Bowling Green Bracket will be available here, for a small fee.

Live stats are available here and here.

Team Breakdowns:

Science & Arts (45-6, ranked No. 8 nationally)

About the Drovers: USAO comes into the tournament riding a 16-game winning streak. They were regular season and postseason champions in the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC). Head coach Mike Ross was named SAC Coach-of-the-Year after the sweep of the titles. His team features eight players that were name all-conference and two that earned gold gloves defensively.

Jose Hidalgo, a senior left-hander, anchors a pitching staff that had four players with five or more wins. Hidalgo brings a 9-2 record into Bowling Green with a 2.14 ERA over 67.1 innings with 88 strikeouts. Francis Ventura, a senior right-hander, joins him with a 9-0 record to lead the team in wins. Ventura has a 4.37 ERA in 68.0 innings with 61 punch outs.

P.J. Garcia, a junior infielder, leads the team in batting with a .405 average from the left side of the plate. Daniel Lafarga is the leader in RBI with 61. He is also the leader with 12 homeruns on the year as well.

Key Statistics: USAO puts up a lot of runs. They rank 4th in the NAIA with an average of 9.46 runs per game. They are also 4th in RBI per game (8.60) and batting average (.354). They have reached double-digits in runs their last three games, during their conference tournament, and have scored a season-high of 26 back in March.

Campbellsville (36-15, ranked No. 21 nationally)

About the Tigers: Campbellsville swept their way through the Mid-South Conference tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NAIA Opening Round. They landed eight players on their all-conference team. Matthew Valdez was named a first-teamer at shortstop as he led the Tigers in batting with a .364 average. Logan Roberts, the team-leader in RBI with 41, joined him as a designated hitter. Outfield Tyson Solis (.360 avg., 25 RBI) and relief pitcher DJ Wilson (5-1, 10 saves) were also on the first team.

Their pitching staff features a plethora of arms. Eleven players pitched 10 or more innings with Tyson Deason (6-2, 3.07 ERA) and Parker Loutensock (4-0, 3.11 ERA) as the two main starters. They were both second-team selections to the all-conference team.

Key Statistics: The Tigers rank in the top 20 in both opponent batting average and earned run average. They hold opponents to a .231 average while allowing just 3.74 earned runs per nine innings. Behind their solid pitching they have a top ten defense as they are 6th in the NAIA with a .971 fielding percentage.

At the plate they rank 27th in the nation with 2.0 doubles per game. They are 30th in the NAIA in home runs with 49 on the year, just under one round-tripper per game.

Reinhardt (38-17, receiving votes in latest poll)

About the Eagles: Reinhardt earned on of the 17 at-large bids to get into the NAIA Opening Round. They finished third in the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) regular season and lost to No. 23-ranked Texas Wesleyan in the quarterfinals. They had seven players make the all-conference team including RBI leader Sherman Graves (52 RBI), and batting average leader Daniel Rodriguez (.343 avg.). Rodriguez, a senior infielder, also leads the team in stolen bases with 13. Graves is a senior first baseman.

On the mound, the Eagles feature a tandem of Jason Gifford and Dylan Powers with Heriberto Casasola coming out of the bullpen in relief. Gifford is a junior right-hander who has pitched in 15 games with a 9-3 record and a 3.13 ERA. Powers is a senior righty who has appeared in 14 games with a 10-3 record and a 2.79 ERA. Casasola is a freshman right-hander, who has a 5-1 record with 6 saves and a 3.27 ERA.

Key Statistics: Reinhardt is a stong fielding team as they rank 4th in the NAIA with a .972 fielding percentage. They are 12th in strikeouts with 455 and are 23rd with a 3.96 team ERA. They have been just .500 in the last games alternating wins and losses, going 2-2 in the AAC Tournament. Just before they began conference play they rolled off 13 straight wins, their longest streak of the year.

Bellevue (37-21, receiving votes in latest poll)

About the Bruins: Bellevue enters the tournament having won the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) postseason tournament last week. They won the title, their third in four seasons, over Presentation by a score of 21-1. They are making their eight-straight appearance in the NAIA Opening Round.

Kory Longaker was named NSAA Player-of-the-Year. He was joined on the first-team by eight other Bruins while three more made the second-team. Longaker, a junior, leads the team with a .394 average from his lead-off spot while playing shortstop. He has 43 RBI with 8 home runs as well.

Riley Baasch, a sophomore first baseman, is the team leader with 57 RBI on the season. He has is also the home run leader with 17 (9th in the NAIA). Autin Alexander (10) and JT Patterson (15) also have double digits in homers.

On the mound the Bruins use a trio of starters. Reid Feeley (71.1), Stephen Knapp (75.2) and Dylan Thorp (70.0) lead the team in innings pitched. Feeley is a senior right-hander with a 7-2 record and a 2.90 ERA with 74 strikeouts. Knapp is a junior righty with a 5-2 record, 2.38 ERA with 64 strikeouts. Thorp is a senior lefty with a 7-3 record, 3.60 ERA with a team-high 81 Ks.

Key Statistics: Bellevue is known for their power offensively as they rank 17th in the nation with 395 runs batted in and are 5th in home runs with 81 long balls. They have scored 431 runs this year, 18th most in the country. They have scored 20 or more in a game four times this year, two of those coming in their last five games.

This year they played Midland twice, splitting their home-and-home series. They defeated the Warriors 6-2 in Bellevue and lost 12-9 in Fremont.

Midland (32-20)

About the Warriors: Midland is in the tournament for their third straight year and fourth time in five years. They earned the Great Plains Athletic Conference’s (GPAC) second bid after finishing second in the regular season. They won six straight conference games to clinch that spot and have won 10 of their last 11 games. The Warriors fell to Northwestern in the GPAC championship game 2-1 a week ago.

The Warriors relied on their pitching more so this year than in the past. They have a solid rotation that features three pitchers with six or more wins. Daylon Owens (7-3, 5.26 ERA, 47 K) and Torrey Escamilla (7-3, 2.73 ERA, 92 K) return from last year’s team while Dakota Cortese (6-4, 3.36 ERA, 95 K) is a new addition. Billy Brand (4-1, 0.62 ERA with 4 saves) is the main arm coming out of the bullpen. He is also an everyday player at shortstop.

Tanner Bos is the team leader in average (.339) and stolen bases (13). He was a first-team All-GPAC selection along with Brand this season as well as a gold glove winner for the second straight year at first base. Bos and Buddy Balsino are the RBI leaders with 39 runs driven in each.

Key Statistics: Midland keeps their opponents off the bases as they hold opponents to a .251 batting average. They had a 3.96 team ERA as well. Both statistics rank 23rd in the nation. They are 37th in team strikeouts, with 389 opposing batters sat down.

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