NewsCougars Set to Compete for NCCAA National Title
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team will take the field on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. in Celina, Ohio, as one of the ten teams in this yearís double elimination National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament.
The Cougars (38-15), who have five NCCAA national titles to their credit, are seeded fourth in this yearís event and will faced fifth-seeded Judson (Ill.) College in one of the tournamentís first round games.
MVNU, which was ranked 15th in the final NAIA national poll and earned a berth in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, next week, enters the tournament having won five straight postseason games. The Cougars batted an amazing .477 as a team in the NAIA Region IX Tournament last week as the team went 3-0 to earn the programís second ever NAIA World Series berth.
Senior second baseman Dan Matheney leads the team with a .448 batting average and has scored 38 runs out of the lead-off spot. Senior catcher Justin Clarey, the NCCAA East Region and American Mideast Conference South Division Player of the Year, adds a .440 batting average with 13 doubles, seven home runs, and a team-high 46 RBI, while senior outfielder Jason Irish has a .400 batting average with 15 doubles, seven home runs, and 45 RBI. Junior outfielder Steve Edwards (.352 with 32 RBI), sophomore third baseman Kyle Peters (.343 with 49 runs scored), and junior shortstop Chris McKinney (.326 with 39 RBI and 36 runs scored) also contribute to the teamís .347 season batting average.
The pitching rotation for MVNU is led by senior left-hander Adam Rowe, who was selected as the NCCAA East Region and AMC South Division Pitcher of the Year. Rowe has posted a 9-1 record with a 3.30 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 79 innings. Sophomore right-hander Nick Schwartz (8-4, 2.78 ERA, 85 strikeouts, 81 innings), Irish (7-2, 3.23 ERA, 58 strikeouts, 69 2/3 innings), and freshman right-hander Mike Laughlin (7-2, 3.84 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 58 2/3 innings) round out the solid four-man starting staff. Peters (3-0, 3.72 ERA, four saves) has served as the teamís closer, while junior right-handers Carl Langley and Derek Morey along with freshman right-hander Ryan Decker have added depth to the bullpen.
The Eagles of Judson are making their first ever appearance in the NCCAA National Tournament. Judson has posted a 27-18 overall record and won the NCCAA North Central Region Tournament. The Eagles are hitting .315 as a team and are led by Nathan Perez, who has a .388 average for the year. Adam Schwelnus has a .350 average to go along with eight home runs and 28 RBI, while Isaac Mendez (.348 with 31 RBI) and Cesar Alicea (.345 with 33 RBI) also contribute heavily to the attack.
On the mound, Keith Laguna has posted a 7-4 record with a 3.64 ERA, while Aaron Cote is 6-4 with a 4.66 ERA. As a team, the Eagles have a 5.28 ERA and have struck out 236 batters in 296 1/3 innings.
The rest of the first round match-ups feature seventh-seeded Geneva (Pa.) College versus tenth-seeded Crichton (Tenn.) College, eighth-seeded Oakland City (Ind.) University against ninth-seeded Cedarville University, and third-seeded Bethel (Ind.) College taking on sixth-seeded Palm Beach Atlantic (Fla.) University. Top-seeded Dallas Baptist (Texas) University, the defending NCCAA champs, and second-seeded Faulkner (Ala.) University each have a bye and await second round opponents.
The double elimination tournament will continue through Saturday at both Jim Hoess Field and Eastview Park in Celina.