NewsMVNU Baseball Team Headed to NAIA World Series
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Following a morning practice for the last time this year at Cougar Field, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team began its journey to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, on Wednesday afternoon.
The Cougars (39-17), who are making the program’s second appearance in the 10-team event, are seeded sixth. MVNU faces the daunting task of opening play against 13-time NAIA national champion and host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) College in the first round of the tournament on Friday night at 10:30 p.m. EST.
The Cougars, who also participated in the 1997 event in Souix City, Iowa, have posted a .345 team batting average led by senior second baseman Dan Matheney (.455 with 40 runs scored). Senior catcher Justin Clarey (.429) and senior outfielder Jason Irish (.392) are tied for the team lead with seven homers and 47 RBI each, while junior outfielder Steve Edwards (.349 with 32 RBI and 32 runs), sophomore third baseman Kyle Peters (.337 with 50 runs scored), and junior shortstop Chris McKinney (.330 with 42 RBI and 37 runs) are also important cogs in the offensive machine.
The MVNU pitching staff, which boasts a 3.87 team earned run average and 357 strikeouts in 405 innings, is led by senior left-hander Adam Rowe, who has a 10-1 record with a 3.14 ERA and 90 strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Nick Schwartz (8-5 with a 2.76 ERA and 88 strikeouts), Irish (7-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 62 strikeouts), and freshman right-hander Mike Laughlin (7-2 with a 3.84 ERA and 59 strikeouts) round out the solid four-man rotation. Junior right-hander Derek Morey (2-3 with a 4.15 ERA), freshman right-hander Ryan Decker (1-1 with a 5.40 ERA), junior right-hander Carl Langley (1-0 with a 6.35 ERA and one save), and Peters (3-0 with a 3.72 ERA and four saves) all provide depth out of the bullpen.
Lewis-Clark State, who the Cougars will face in the first round, has won four of the last five NAIA national titles to up their record total to 13 titles since 1984. The Warriors (51-8) are batting .328 as a team led by Jose Rodriguez (.376), Justin Fuller (.366), and Brandon Morris (.366). Rodriguez leads the team with 61 RBI, while Morris and Tyler Best have each hit 15 home runs which together combines for more than MVNU has hit as a team this season (27).
Lewis-Clark State also boasts a 3.35 ERA as a team. Carlos Fisher (7-1 with a 2.91 ERA) and Kyle Allen (7-2 with a 3.08 ERA) have the most wins, while Nick Seely (5-0 with a 1.50 ERA and four saves), Salvador Aguilar (5-0 with a 3.16 ERA), and Aaron Mills (5-0 with a 3.79 ERA) are each undefeated on the mound. The Warriors, who used 17 different pitchers this season including 11 different starters, have recorded just one complete game as a staff, but the team has posted seven combined shutouts. Lewis-Clark State pitchers have struck out 490 batters and issued just 205 walks in 531 2/3 innings this season.
The rest of the double elimination field consists of top-seeded Oklahoma City University (70-5), second-seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) University (51-8), fourth-seeded Bellevue (Neb.) University (54-18), fifth-seeded Cumberland (Tenn.) University (54-21), seventh-seeded Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) University (44-14), eighth-seeded William Penn (Iowa) University (47-13), ninth-seeded Concordia (Ore.) University (36-20), and tenth-seeded Jamestown (N.D.) College (46-8).
The tournament activities will get under way on Thursday with a youth baseball clinic, a visit to some local elementary schools by the teams, and a tournament banquet. At the banquet, former MVNU standout Tim Belcher will be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame as well as serving as the featured speaker for the evening.
All of MVNU’s games will be carried live on WNZR 90.9 FM and through the internet at www.mvnu.edu/wnzr/sportswebcast.html . Information including batter-by-batter live statistics can also be accessed during the games at www.naiaworldseries.com .