May 15, 2013

2013 Ashland University Baseball - Midwest Region Preview

May 16-19, 2013, Meador Park, Springfield, Mo.

Tournament Overview

            The Ashland University Eagles are participating in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament. The winner of this four-day, six-team, double-elimination tournament will advance to the NCAA Division II World Series in Cary, N.C. Ashland is the top seed in the field. The second seed, Drury, is the tournament host. This is the first time Drury has hosted the NCAA regional.

            Three games will be played on Thursday (May 16), Friday (May 17) and Saturday (May 18). One or two games will be played on Sunday (May 19). Thursday's schedule can be found below (All game times are central time. AU plays at noon, eastern on Thursday).

11 a.m. – ASHLAND (#1, 36-17) vs. Bellarmine (#6, 29-21)

2:20 p.m. – Grand Valley State (#3, 31-16) vs. Saint Joseph's (#4, 30-18)

6 p.m. – Drury (#2, 39-15) vs. Lewis (#5, 31-10) 

            If AU wins on Thursday, it will play the loser of the Grand Valley State-Saint Joseph's game on Friday at 2:30 p.m. If the Eagles lose their opener, they would play Friday at 11 a.m. against the loser of the Drury-Lewis game.

Ashland Overview

            The Eagles have won eight of their last 10 games and bring a two-game winning streak into the tournament. Last weekend in Ypsilanti, Mich., the Eagles won the GLIAC tournament championship. That's the first GLIAC tournament title AU has won. On the final day of the tournament, AU defeated Ohio Dominican, 7-5 and Grand Valley State, 6-4.

            Ashland finished third in the GLIAC during the regular season. In the latest Collegiate Baseball national poll AU is ranked 28th.

Ashland and the NCAA Postseason

            This is the 12th time the Eagles have reached the NCAA postseason in head coach John Schaly's 16 years at AU. Under Schaly, AU has advanced to the College World Series four times – 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2008. The school's first College World Series trip came in 1995. In 2008, Ashland finished fifth at the World Series.

            This is AU's first postseason visit since the 2010 season. That year, AU played at Southern Indiana and lost to Grand Valley State, 6-3 and to Indianapolis, 5-2. Ashland's all-time record in NCAA postseason play is 30-32.

Head Coach John Schaly

            At Ashland, head coach John Schaly is 610-293-1 and in 25 years as a collegiate head coach, he's 973-511-1. Schaly has won 40 or more games at AU seven times. His 2002 team established the school, single-season record for victories (48). Under Schaly, the Eagles have won five GLIAC regular season championships. Schaly's first year at AU was 1998. That year, the Eagles were 27-23. The next year the Eagles improved to 45-16 and reached the College World Series. At Ashland, Schaly has been named the GLIAC coach of the year five times and the region coach of the year four times. He's the school's career leader in wins.

            Before arriving at AU, Schaly was the head coach at Berry (GA) and St. Leo.

            Schaly is a 1982 Marietta College graduate. He played baseball at Marietta under his father, the late Don Schaly. Don Schaly won 1,442 games in his career. John Schaly was an All-America second baseman in 1981 and 1982 and was named the most valuable player of the 1981 NCAA Division III World Series. He was also an Academic All-America and is a member of the Marietta College Hall of Fame.

GLIAC's Top Arm

            Sophomore right-hander Jake Baldwin (Madison Heights, Mich./Lamphere) is the 2013 GLIAC pitcher of the year. Baldwin is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA. He has 62 strikeouts and 31 walks in 71.2 innings.  Opponents are hitting .218 against him. At one point this season, Baldwin hurled three consecutive shutouts. He had a string of four consecutive starts without allowing a run. Baldwin is a first team All-GLIAC pick and he was tabbed the conference's pitcher of the week once this year.

            Baldwin is the GLIAC leader in ERA. He is tied for second in strikeouts (62). The sophomore is the fourth AU pitcher to receive the GLIAC pitcher of the year award. He joins Andrew Niederst (1999), Ryan Hartzell (2002) and Ajay Meyer (2009, 2011)

Veteran Presence

            Senior right-hander Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) was a freshman on AU's 2008 team that played in the College World Series in Sauget, Ill. Thomas is 10-3 with a 2.43 ERA. He is the GLIAC leader in wins and is ninth in the country in victories. Thomas is sixth in the conference in ERA. He is fourth in the country in walks per nine innings 0.74 and is 15th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.43). Thomas has 45 strikeouts and seven walks in a team-leading 87.1 innings.

End Game

            Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair C.C.) has been effective as a starter and reliever during his two-year career at Ashland. A year ago, he was a first team all-conference pick when he went 8-5 and saved three games. This year, Botjer is fourth in the GLIAC in saves (seven). He's 5-4 and has fanned 61 batters in 57.1 innings. Botjer is fifth in the GLIAC in strikeouts.

Picture of Good Health

            Senior righty Eric Vaughan (Delta, Ohio/Owens C.C.) missed all of last season due to an arm injury. He's returned to go 6-3 with a 3.64 ERA and one save. Vaughan is tied for second in the GLIAC in wins and he's 10th in ERA.

Nice Numbers

            As a team, Ashland is the GLIAC leader in runs (326), batting average (.309) and stolen bases (78). The Eagles are the GLIAC leaders in double plays (108) and they are 27th in the country in twin killings. The AU pitching staff is second in the GLIAC in ERA (3.31) and strikeouts (283). 

West Coast Offense

            Ashland had 32 players on its opening day roster. Of that group, 24 are from Ohio. The only player from California – junior outfielder Alex Sortwell (San Mateo, Calif./Canada College) - has given the Eagles consistent punch in the middle of the batting order.

            Sortwell, a first team all-conference selection, leads the team in homers (eight), RBI (38), total bases (95) and slugging percentage (.552). He's tied for second in the league in homers and he's sixth in RBI. This is Sortwell's first season at Ashland.

Cutting No Corners

            The Eagles have received exceptional seasons from their starting corner infielders.

            Junior Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder), the starting first baseman, is a first team All-GLIAC pick. He's hitting a team-high .364 with two homers and 35 RBI. He leads the team in doubles (13). Gray is sixth in the GLIAC in batting average and he's seventh in RBI. This is Gray's second time on the All-GLIAC team. Two years ago he was a second team all-conference selection as a third baseman.

            AU's starter at the hot corner this year, junior Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio), hits leadoff and is seventh in the conference in batting average (.348). Kaido is third on the team in batting average and second in on-base percentage (.438). Kaido was named the most valuable player at last week's GLIAC Tournament. In five tournament games he hit .521 (10-for-19) with six runs scored and two RBI.

Big Mac Attack

           Mackenzie Hampshire (Delphos, Ohio/Elida) has settled in as AU's designated hitter and produced a fine season. The freshman took over the job midway through the season and is hitting .381 with eight doubles and 19 RBI. Hampshire was named to the GLIAC All-Tournament Team.

Muscle In the Middle

           Shortstop Austin Walts (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst Steele) and second baseman Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) have both had strong seasons. Walts, a junior, is hitting .315, has driven in 28 runs and is 12-for-15 in stolen base attempts. Gundlach, a senior, is hitting .331 and is 8-for-11 on stolen base tries. Gundlach began last season as the starting shortstop.

Grade A Work From Erb

            Senior outfielder Austin Erb (Mechanicsville, Ohio/Hanover) is seventh in the GLIAC in batting average (.350). He's second on the team in that department. Erb is also a Capital One First Team Academic All-District selection and he's on the national All-America ballot. Erb is a four-year starter. He's been named the GLIAC player of the week once this season.

Last Chance

            This AU team lists six seniors. That group includes Botjer, catcher John Broll (Mississagua, Ontario/Genesee C.C.), Erb, Gundlach, Thomas and Vaughan.

Scouting Bellarmine

            The Knights forced their way into the playoff field by going 4-0 at last week's Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament. Bellarmine edged Drury, 2-1 in the tournament championship game. In their last 10 games the Knights are 6-4. Bellarmine finished in third place in the GLVC East Division with a 20-13 conference mark.

            AU did not play Bellarmine this season. The Knights feature 6-4-, 240-pound senior righty Kyle Grana, who is 6-2 with a 2.60 ERA. Opposing hitters have managed a .183 batting average against Grana. He has 90 strikeouts in 65.2 innings.

            Another senior right-hander, Jason Sterrett, is 5-3 with a 3.43 ERA. Closer Justin Strohmeier, is 0-1 with a 1.38 ERA and 10 saves. He has 30 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.

            Outfielder Austin Crutcher is hitting .350 with two homers and 32 RBI.

            First baseman Michael Morrissette is swinging at a .332 clip.      

Playoff News and Notes

            Ashland played two teams in the regional field this year – Grand Valley State and Saint Joseph's. AU went 2-3 against GVSU and defeated SJC, 7-2 in Florida on Mar. 11. Botjer received credit for the win against the Pumas…the last time AU faced Lewis in the NCAA playoffs was in 1995 and the Eagles won, 6-4…this is Drury's second trip to the NCAA postseason. Their first visit was in 2007 when the Eagles hosted the regional in Akron…Drury finished the regular season first in the GLIAC West Division at 25-9. Lewis won the GLIAC East with a 23-10 league record…Drury is the GLVC leader in runs (346), hits (555), RBI (315), doubles (102), batting average (.315), slugging percentage (.443), on-base percentage (.398) and total bases (751)…Drury is ranked 12th in the country by the College Baseball Writers and 22nd  by Collegiate Baseball. Grand Valley State is 18th in the Collegiate Baseball Writers poll…the athletic director at Drury is Pat Atwell, formerly the head baseball coach at Quincy. When he coached at Quincy, his Hawks lost to Ashland, 11-10 in the 1999 regional championship. That day, AU's Jamie Detillion set school, single-game records for homers (four) and total bases (16). Detillion is the head coach at Grand Valley State.

            AU's last playoff game against Saint Joseph's was in 2008 in Crestwood, Ill. Ashland won, 3-2. The last AU-Grand Valley State playoff encounter was in 2010 at Evansville, Ind., and the Lakers won, 6-3. Ashland and Drury have never played in the postseason. In 2008, AU topped Bellarmine, 9-2 in the regional tourney…sophomore right-hander Jordan Peterson of Saint Joseph's is the GLVC pitcher of the year. He's 8-1 with one save, seven complete games and a 1.67 ERA. Peterson is seventh in the country in complete games and 22nd in ERA. His 7.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio puts him 12th in the nation. Opposing hitters have managed a .224 batting average against Peterson……SJC catcher Kolin Connor, a first team all-conference pick, is hitting .310 with a .523 slugging percentage. He has 11 doubles, four homers and has driven in 44 runs…Lewis skipper Tim McDonough, in his sixth season, is the GLVC coach of the year…GVSU is 12-4 in its last 16 games and has five players hitting .331 or better. First baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni is the GLIAC leader in homers (12) and RBI (49)…Lewis and Saint Joseph's are both 5-5 in their last 10 games…Drury is 8-2 in its last 10 games with four shutouts…last year's Midwest Regional champion was Indianapolis. Last year's national champion was West Chester.

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