TIFFIN, Ohio - Tiffin baseball's GMAC Championship hopes have come down to the final weekend, as the results of their four-game set at Walsh along with a few other series across the conference will determine whether or not they reach the postseason.
Tiffin Dragons (17-28, 14-14 GMAC) at
Walsh University Cavaliers (25-19, 18-10 GMAC)
Friday, May 3 | 1:00 p.m. (DH)
Saturday, May 4 | 12:00 p.m. (DH)
North Canton, Ohio | Tim Mead Field
Tiffin and Walsh have met just 13 times since the Dragons joined the Division II ranks, with the Cavaliers holding an 8-5 advantage in the series. The Dragons emerged victorious in the last meeting between the two teams, though, as TU took a 3-2 win in the first round of the 2017 GLIAC Tournament.
TU struggled to get the offense going last week, scoring 3.2 runs per game across six conference contests as they split a pair of games with Findlay and dropped three of four to Kentucky Wesleyan. Tiffin will need a better offensive output this weekend if they hope to qualify for the postseason, as they currently sit one game out of the eighth and final GMAC Championship berth. However, spots two through nine in the standings are separated by just four games, so the GMAC is due for a wild finish in terms of seeding and who gets left out in the ninth position. There are a few different scenarios with which the Dragons could reach the postseason, some much more likely than others, but each spelled out below. Two or more of the scenarios could also occur together, leading to possibilities of higher seeding for the Dragons, but that is much too complicated to worry about until after the regular season is completed.
The easiest way would be for Tiffin to simply win one more game this weekend than Hillsdale. At 15-13 in conference, the Chargers are one game up on the Dragons, but TU holds the tiebreaker due to taking three of four from Hillsdale earlier in the season. Therefore, if the Chargers are swept by Ohio Dominican across their four-game set this weekend, TU would need just one win at Walsh. One win for Hillsdale, two wins are needed for Tiffin. HC takes two, TU needs three, and if the Chargers take three of four from the Panthers, the Dragons would need a sweep of the Cavaliers. A sweep by Hillsdale would eliminate this possibility. Each team's opponent is a tough one, as Walsh and ODU are tied for second in the GMAC at 18-10.
Another way would be to overcome Alderson Broaddus in the standings, whom Tiffin also holds the tiebreaker with by virtue of a 3-1 head-to-head advantage this season. The Battlers have already finished their conference slate, and sit in seventh at 17-15. The Dragons would have to reach that 17-win mark in order to advance via the tiebreaker, so if Tiffin either takes three of four from Walsh or sweeps the Cavaliers, they are in.
Lake Erie is two games up on Tiffin entering the weekend. If Tiffin is able to win three or four more games than Lake Erie during both teams' final four-game sets, they are in. If they win two more games and finish in a tie, however, things get interesting. Since the Dragons and Storm did not face each other this year, the tiebreaker goes to record against common conference opponents in descending order of the final standings. Since we don't know the final standings, everything is pure speculation at this point, but in this case, the only common opponents in the current top six that the Dragons and Storm will have faced are Kentucky Wesleyan and Ohio Dominican. The Storm have a better record against both, so it appears that they would hold the tiebreaker if necessary.
Trevecca Nazarene is currently three games up on Tiffin. As a result, if the Dragons sweep Walsh and the Trojans get swept this weekend by Ohio Valley, Tiffin is in. Since the two teams did not play each other this season, if the Dragons were to win three more games than the Trojans, the tiebreaker would be determined in the same fashion as with Lake Erie. The same exact fashion, actually, since the common opponents near the top of the conference are also KWC and ODU, and Trevecca holds a better record than Tiffin against both.
Lastly, in a way the Dragons could control their own destiny. Despite being in a tie for second-place, Walsh is just four games up on Tiffin at 18-10. If TU is able to sweep the Cavaliers, both teams would finish at 18-14 in the standings, and the Dragons would hold the tiebreaker.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
With the exception of the Hillsdale scenario, the Dragons need to win at least three games against Walsh to have a chance at the postseason, so this series is extremely important. As previously mentioned, the Cavaliers are in a three-way tie for second in the conference at 18-10. They enter the series as winners of 10 of their last 14 games, including a two-game sweep of GMAC-leading Malone last Tuesday.
Walsh is very strong on both the hitting and pitching ends, as the Cavaliers are tops in the conference with a .304 team batting average and second in the GMAC with a 4.11 team ERA. Walsh also leads the conference in doubles, walks allowed, and doubles allowed.
Of hitters with at least 100 at-bats, Walsh has five with batting averages above .300. Andrew Czech is sure to be a front-runner for the GMAC Player of the Year honor, as the infielder leads all of the GMAC with a .419 batting average, .832 slugging percentage, .526 on-base percentage, 58 RBI, and 16 home runs. The redshirt-junior is also second in runs (54) and hits (65), sixth in walks (33), and tied for seventh in doubles (14). Brenden Spaulding is next with a .331 average, 17 doubles, and 37 RBI, followed by Avery Janning with a .327 BA, 14 doubles, and 36 RBI.
Hyatt Shenefield leads the pitching staff with a 2.91 ERA in 52.2 innings, holding a 4-4 record while striking out 26 and walking 11. Nick BeBout is tops on the team with 60 innings pitched, and holds a 3-2 record, 4.35 ERA, and 53 strikeouts to 13 walks. Ben Bulchik (3.07 ERA), Brant Alazaus (3.72), and Nik Barkdull (4.67) have also been regular starters for the Cavaliers, each with at least 34 innings and five starts under their belt on the season. Drew Saunier has been the go-to guy out of the bullpen, making 13 relief appearances and throwing 22.0 innings with a 3.68 ERA and 24 strikeouts.