By Gary R. Rasberry
The continued success of the National Christian College Athletic Association's Baseball World Series in Celina has allowed the city to host the four-day, 10-team tournament for a fourth straight year.
Last year Dallas Baptist, who traveled over 1,000 miles to appear in the tournament, won the National Division I title after winning two straight games over Spring Arbor by 9-3 and 4-3 margins. The Patriots' Drew Holder, who gunned down the the potential tying run at the plate in game two, earned the Daniel Meyer Trophy as tournament Most Valuable Player. Spring Arbor's Justin Hahaj was honored as the top pitcher of the tournament, earning the Galen Cisco trophy.
Holder and the Patriots will return to Celina to defend their championship, a task that isn't so easy as there hasn't been a repeat champion since the tournament moved to Celina. The last repeat champs came in 1997 when Mount Vernon Nazarene won the third of three straight.
Three other teams, Faulkner University, Bethel College and Cedarville University, also return from 2003. Faulkner and Bethel each won a national title in Celina with the Eagles from Alabama winning the first Celina-held title and Bethel beating Faulkner one year later.
#1 DALLAS BAPTIST
The Patriots come in at 40-16, playing a schedule that includes Big 12 teams like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Baylor and other NCAA Division I programs like Texas Christian and Fresno State. The quality wins paid off as the Patriots earned the top seed in the tournament.
Leading the way for the Patriots is senior Ben Zobrist, who is batting a hefty .389 with 15 doubles and 64 RBI. Junior Ryan Olivo is close behind with a .355 average and 10 triples while collecting 53 RBI. Holder returns to the scene of his breakthrough play as the sophomore is batting .341 with 21 doubles. On the mound, junior righthander Jeff Gilmore has been the ace and is 10-3 with a 2.96 ERA.
Sophomore Lance Broadway has also been strong on the mound, going 9-2 with a 3.01 ERA. Broadway has a dominating array of pitches, striking out 92 in 1012ò3 innings.
The Eagles could become tour guides for the other teams in the tournament since Brent Barker's teams have been to Celina all four years, winning the first series held here with a memorable game-winning home run by Matt Ames over East Texas Baptist.
Ames has graduated after a fine career with the Alabama-based school, but the 42-22 Eagles have plenty of talent coming back from last seasons team. Kris Price, who led the team in batting as a freshman, returns to Celina again being the team leader in hitting, batting a stellar .395 with 16 doubles and six triples for the Eagles. Beau Trobert also has a potent stick batting .396 with 14 homers and 37 RBI.
Fans of the Grand Lake Mariners may want to come out to see former Mariners catcher Eddie Senez. The fan favorite in 2002 transferred from Emmanuel to Faulkner and has stepped up, batting .323 with 53 RBI in 64 games, good for second on the team.
The Eagles have been known for strong pitching, with this season being no different. Blake Mitchum leads a deep rotation with a 10-2 record and a 3.32 ERA. Mitchum has two complete-game shutouts and pitched in two others. Adam Moore has been the stopper when not starting, going 6-3 with three saves and a 1.70 ERA. Doug Holbert has seven complete games in 13 starts, going 7-2.
The Pilots are back again this season after not being able to repeat as champions last season. Coach Seth Zartman's team boasts a strong lineup that went 42-13.
The Mishiwaka, Indiana school boasts one of the best hitters in the NCCAA with first baseman Marcel Guevara. Guevara was first-team All-MCC this season with a .465 batting average with 19 home runs and 64 RBI. Marcel is joined by a pair of fellow Venezuelans to help in the offense. Javier Guevara is also batting .465 with 24 doubles and Javier Jimenez is batting .365 with 35 runs batted in. Tom Gifford is just as potent, batting .440 with 18 doubles and 14 homers.
On the mound, the Pilots will look to Justin Masterson. Masterson is tied for fourth in the NCCAA with eight wins and leads the nation with a 1.64 ERA. Masterson is fifth in the NCAA with 72 strikeouts in just 652ò3 innings.
# 4 MOUNT VERNON NAZARENE
The Cougars are one of the most successful teams in NCCAA history, winning the World Series five times, including three straight from 1995 to 1997. Coach Keith Veale won his 500th career game this season and has the Cougars coming in with a 38-15 record.
Senior Dan Matheney has had a strong season for MVNU, batting .448 with 10 doubles and only 12 strikeouts in 181 at-bats this season. Senior catcher Justin Clarey is the main run producer for the Cougars driving in 46 runs this season with a slugging percentage of .692 and seven home runs. Utility-man Jason Irish is just as potent with a .400 average, 15 doubles, seven homers and 45 RBI.
Irish is also part of a strong rotation on the mound, going 7-2 with a 3.23 ERA. Senior lefty Adam Rowe leads the team with a 9-1 record and an ERA of 3.30. Rowe has recorded 85 strikeouts, tied for best on team with Nick Schwartz (8-4, 2.78 ERA), and holds a WHIP of 1.18.
The Eagles made their first trip to the NCCAA World Series after winning two straight from Greenville on Saturday in the North Central regional, going 27-18 during the season.
Junior infielder Nathan Perez leads the team with a .388 batting average with nine doubles and 33 runs scored this season. Junior catcher Adam Schwelnus provides the heavy hitting with a team-high eight home runs and a .607 slugging percentage.
On the mound, coach Loren Torres will go to freshman Keith Laguna. Laguna has a 7-4 record with a 3.64 ERA. Senior Aaron Cote adds depth to the pitching rotation with a 6-4 record and 4.66 ERA. Cote has eight complete games this season and two (Continued from page 1C)
#6 PALM BEACH ATLANTIC
The Sailfish make their first trip to Mercer County after posting a 26-11 record.
Junior shortstop Bobby Brink leads the offense for coach Mike Lord, batting .402, hitting 11 doubles with five triples while scoring 33 runs. Classmate Tom Baeder leads the team in RBI with 36 and bats a cool .385 with four home runs. Senior outfielder Johnny Reyes provides speed with 18 stolen bases and a .460 on-base percentage to go along with a .355 batting average.
On the mound, freshman Mike Doneth has been solid, going 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Senior Paul Harvey has been durable, going 8-4 with a 4.52 ERA while posting a nearly 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (72 strikeouts, 15 walks).
#7 GENEVA COLLEGE
The Golden Tornadoes make the trip from Beaver Falls, Penn. to play in the tournament for the first time in Celina. The American Mideast Conference team comes in with a 25-18 record.
Senior infielder Jonathan Crow leads the team in hitting with a .409 average with 10 doubles and a .559 slugging percentage. Junior catcher-first baseman Brian May leads the team with 34 RBI and holds a .337 batting average.
Coach Alan Sumner has several arms he can go to on the mound. Righty Dan Merrick is 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA. Freshman Matt Colella is also 5-3 with three saves and has an ERA of 4.02 with the most innings of any Tornado hurler (62 2/3). Southpaw Brad Yates is 5-3 with an ERA of 4.91 over 472ò3 innings.
#8 OAKLAND CITY UNIVERSITY
The Mighty Oaks come back to Celina after a one-year absence. Coach T-Ray Fletcher has his team playing well with a 24-18-1 record.
Utility-man/pitcher Jason Bell has swung heavy aluminum this season, batting .418 with 14 home runs and plating 57 RBI this season. Junior Jeff Durlauf has added another 14 round-trippers with 42 RBI and a .384 average. Third baseman Jesse Simmons adds a .370 average with 32 RBI.
Senior Shane Roberts provides the bulk of the innings on the mound, going 6-1 with a 2.32 ERA.
#9 CEDARVILLE UNIVERSITY
Once again, the Yellow Jackets have been strong in the stretch run. The team, coached by NCCAA Baseball Chairman Greg Hughes, is 13-31 but rallied to upset Spring Arbor in the Midwest Region Championship, winning 7-6 in the third game of the best-of-three final after splitting the day before. Last year the Yellow Jackets pulled some upsets to make it to Celina and the tournament.
Senior outfielder Travis Allen has been the big hitter all season for the Yellow Jackets, batting .365 with 25 runs scored. Jeff Lowe is right behind at .344 and has been the big extra-base hitter with 13 doubles and a pair of triples and two homers while collecting a team-high 28 RBI.
Sophomore lefty Matthew Bonin is the only Cedarville pitcher with a winning record, going 5-3 with an ERA of 2.51. Bonin is a workhorse, throwing 712ò3 innings in 12 appearances with seven complete games.
#10 CRICHTON COLLEGE
The Cardinals from Memphis, Tenn. are playing with a mission as coach Rob Callistro announced he will step down at the end of the season to enter Mid-American Baptist Theological Seminary. Callistro stared for the Cardinals program back in 1999.
The Cardinals placed six players on the All-Mideast Regional team this spring; Utility-player Alex Velazquez, outfielder Matt Schildmeier, designated hitter Greg Davidson, relief pitcher Brian Tucker and catcher Joe Pond.
Schildmeier has the potential to be drafted by the major leagues after working out with the St. Louis Cardinals in their pre-draft camp.