USCAA Baseball National Championship Preview

USCAA Baseball National Championship Preview

2018 Features Most Diverse Field in Small College World Series History

DuBois, PA – On Sunday, May 13th, twenty small college teams from thirteen states across the nation will land in DuBois, Pennsylvania in hopes of a national title in baseball and softball.  The 2018 baseball field will feature the most diverse field in Small College History, with teams hailing from nine of the thirteen states represented in the entire series including Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama.  The Softball Championship will add teams from Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois.  Each championship is a double elimination tournament, which will be played out at Showers Field (Baseball) and Heindl Memorial Field (Softball) from May 13-17. 

The Small College World Series kicks off on Sunday with the All-American Banquet at the DuBois Country Club at 1pm.  The Parade of Athletes and Home Run Derby will take place at Showers Field beginning at 6pm with Softball and 7:15pm with baseball.  A fireworks show for the participants and community will cap off the evening.  The Parade of Athletes and Home Run Derby is free and open to the public. 

The tournament begins on Monday at 8:30am and will feature two teams making their first appearance in the Small College World Series, Mississippi University for Women from Columbus, Mississippi and Florida National University from Hialeah, Florida.  The Conquistadors of Florida National are the nine seed and are a solid defensive team that has been powered by good gloves and offense this season.  Florida National is paced offensively by middle infielders Benjamin Murray and Manuel Blanco.  The two combined for 67 hits and 56 runs on the year.  It will be interesting to see if the eighth seeded Mississippi University for Women Owls throw Will Peters in the opening game.  Peters is tied for first in the nation with 7 wins and offensively posted a .349 batting average and .442 on base percentage.  The Owls are top five in the nation in runs, triples, RBI’s and walks.

The winner of the Owls and Conquistadors will have the pleasure of playing the overall #1 seed on Monday at 4:00pm EST.  The University of Cincinnati-Clermont, under the direction of Keith Bauman claimed their second consecutive number one seed.  The Cougars of UC Clermont finished fourth in last year’s Championship.  They have not won the World Series since 2013.  As a team, the Cougars have a slugging percentage of .494 which is second in the nation and lead the association in triples with 15. With a record of 22-14, Cincinnati Clermont was 8-4 against USCAA opponents this season.  USCAA All-American candidate Isaac Stidham is a player to watch; he hit .393 on the season with 5 home runs and over 20 RBI’s. 

Rounding out the top half of the bracket are fourth seeded Bluefield State College and the fifth seeded Cleary University Cougars.  The two will match up at 1:30pm on Monday at Showers Field.  The Bluefield State Big Blues, hailing from Bluefield, West Virginia, took two games from The Apprentice School late in the season and are hot going into the tournament.  The Blues are an offensive heavy squad, led by Tanner Brandon who has 11 doubles and 36 RBI’s on the season.  Catcher Peyton Durham had a great year at the plate with a .670 slugging percentage, 8 home runs and 38 RBI’s.  Cleary, who is the 5th seed in the field, is a perennial contender.  The Cougars from Howell, Michigan hope to put their team over the top in Director’s Cup standings this year with a solid performance and hopefully their first Small College World Series title.  The Cougars are top 10 in the nation in nine team statistical categories including runs, hits, home runs, and RBI’s. Their bullpen is strong as well, guided by James Edwards who is tied for first in the nation in saves. 

Kicking off the bottom half of the 2018 bracket is the 7 vs. 10 matchup between the Fighting Saints from College of St. Joseph Vermont and the Bulldogs from Selma University.  They match up at 11am EST on Monday, May 14th.  The Saints out of Rutland, Vermont are the two-time defending National Champion, an indication of how strong this year’s field is from top to bottom.  They will be led by former All-Tournament team standout, John Loschiavo, who returns to the World Series with 41 hits, a .416 on base percentage and 12 stolen bases.  They will not have an easy route to the next round of the winner’s bracket, matching up against the Bulldogs from Selma, Alabama.  Selma returns to the USCAA after a brief hiatus playing in the National Christian College Athletic Association.  In their first year back in the USCAA, Selma led the nation in home runs.  They are paced by junior Marcus Hardy who tops the nation with 10 home runs, 40 RBI’s, a .494 batting average and a slugging percentage over 1.000. 

The winner of College of St. Joseph and Selma University will play into the #2 seed in this year’s championship, The Apprentice School from Newport News, Virginia. That game will be played under lights at 9:00pm EST on Monday.  The Builders of the Apprentice School had the most wins of any USCAA program this season, with 29.  The Builders boast a team slugging percentage of .432 led by former USCAA All-American Cody Hendrickson and All-American candidate Maxwell Burcham.  Apprentice is an offensive powerhouse, leading the nation in runs, hits, doubles, RBI’s, total bases, and sacrifice flies.  Head Coach Bryan Cave, who was one-win shy of his fourth 30-win season, hopes to elevate the team to their first National Championship since 2015 when the Builders won the tournament in their home stadium of War Memorial Field in Newport News.

Rounding out the field are the #3 seeded Wright State University Lake Campus and #6 seeded Penn State DuBois.  DuBois hopes to become the fourth straight USCAA institution to win the Small College World Series on home turf.  DuBois earned an at large bid this year off a 24-10 record.  The Lions, who were 14-1 in PSUAC conference play this year rank 1st in the USCAA in shut-outs and fourth in batting average against.  They are led on the mound by Caleb Bennett who was 5-0, allowing only 14 earned runs and a 3.18 ERA on the season.  Offensively, the Lions attack will be spearheaded by Talon Falls and Dan Bowman who combined for 80 hits, 19 doubles, and 55 RBI’s this season.  They will take on a now seasoned Lakers squad from Wright State who are coached by former USCAA Coach of the Year Chad Geier.  Wright State has the pitching to go deep in the series.  They feature two of the top three ERA leaders in the association, Carson Schuman and Zach Kirby, who leads the nation with a 2.41 ERA.  The Lakers, who were 5-1 on neutral territory this season rank 5th in ERA and 2nd in batting average against.  Their bullpen is solid as well, posting a team 3.97 ERA on the year.  The Lakers will be powered offensively by a freshman, Connor Schmitt, who was just shy of a .400 batting average in 2018.  Penn State DuBois and Wright State Lake will have the primetime game at 6:30pm on Monday.

Fans wishing to attend the Small College World Series can find brackets, up to date news stories, and links to buy tickets at www.smallcollegeworldseries.com.  Tickets are $10 per day, which gets you into unlimited sessions at both the Baseball and Softball National Championships.  There is a steep discount for Clearfield County residents.  Those who can’t make the trip to DuBois can use the site to watch live.  All games are free of charge for SD version.  An HD upgrade is available for just $6.95 for most games.  To learn more about the USCAA, visit their main website at www.theuscaa.com