TIFFIN, Ohio - Making their first-ever trip to the NCAA postseason and riding a six-game win streak, Tiffin baseball heads to Midwest Regional #1 on Thursday and faces top-seed Ashland to open play at the double-elimination regional tournament.
Friday, May 17
Game 3: GM1 Winner vs. GM2 Winner - 12:00 p.m.
Game 4: GM1 Loser vs. GM2 Loser - 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: GM3 Loser vs. GM4 Winner - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
Game 6: GM 3 Winner vs. GM5 Winner - 12:00 p.m.
Game 7: If necessary, the same teams will play again if GM5 Winner defeats GM3 Winner in Game 6 - 3:30 p.m.
All games will be played at Schoonover Stadium on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Live video and stats links for TU's contests will be available on gotiffindragons.com, and links for the whole regional will be on the tournament homepage. The team that advances out of the Ashland regional will advance to the Super Regionals to face the winner of the Illinois-Springfield regional (consisting of #2 UIS, #3 Wayne State, #6 Quincy, #7 Drury) in a best-of-three series May 24-25. The winner of that series will then move on to the Division II Baseball Championship finals in Cary, N.C., where they will battle with the winners of the other seven super-regionals to crown a national champion.
Tickets (Cash Only):
Adults - $10
Senior Citizens - $5
College Students w/ID - $5
Youth (17-under) - $5
Children (4-under) - Free
Note: There will be no all-session passes for the tournament. Each ticket will be good for one day.
Despite their low seeding, Tiffin (24-29) is one of the hottest teams entering the NCAA postseason, as they are winners of their last six and eight of nine. Since March 19, the Dragons are also 22-12, rallying in a big way following a 2-17 start to the season. TU reached the regionals via the GMAC automatic qualifier after storming through the conference tournament as the seven-seed, upsetting #2 Ohio Dominican, #3 Trevecca Nazarene, and #5 Kentucky Wesleyan twice to claim the title.
Tiffin has been hitting at a fantastic clip as a team in the month of May, as in the last eight games TU is batting .341 with 8.75 runs per game, 12.5 hits per game, 17 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, and slugging .502. The pitching staff has improved tremendously over the course of the season as well, recording a 4.38 ERA in April and dropping that down to 3.78 in May after back-to-back months opening the season with an ERA above 7.00.
A trio of Dragons are hitting .335 or better in pitcher/center fielder Cody Orr (.335), right fielder John Heckman (.358), and shortstop Zach Campbell (.369). Heckman and Campbell lead the team and are tied for second in the conference with 19 doubles, while Orr's four triples are also tops on the team and tied for second in the GMAC. Heckman is also slugging .611 (eighth in the conference) and has recorded 56 RBI (third). All three players were named to All-GMAC teams prior to postseason play.
Senior first baseman Jack Dennis has also raised his average over .300 as he is now hitting .305 from the plate and is third on the team with 32 RBI. Brayden Callihan has rebounded after a tough start to the season to hit .299 and also leads the team with 29 walks. Nich Green is batting .291 as the starting catcher, but is tied for the team lead with a .450 on-base percentage after ranking second with 27 walks and seven HBP's.
Along with being on of the top hitters, Orr has arguably been TU's best pitcher this season, throwing the most innings (82.1) and holding a 5-1 record with three complete games, a 4.70 ERA, and 66 strikeouts. Aaron George has the lowest ERA on the team at 4.26 and has the third most innings under his belt at 57.0, operating mainly out of relief with 21 appearances.
Scouting the Eagles:
Ashland (41-11) reached the postseason via the GLIAC automatic qualifier after defeating Saginaw Valley State 8-2 in the GLIAC title game. Even with a loss, the Eagles would almost certainly have made the tournament, as they have been ranked #1 in the region for the last few weeks. Former GLIAC rivals, Ashland and Tiffin met twice this year in nonconference play, and the Eagles defeated both TU in Florida on March 3 and at Ashland on March 13. That second game on the 13th marked the start of a 17-game win streak for Ashland, and they now enter the regional winners of 14 of their last 18 contests.
The Eagles hit .305 as a team, led by Austin Eifirid's .379 mark that is third in the GLIAC. He is also third in the conference with 19 stolen bases, and has recorded eight doubles, two triples, and 34 RBI on the year. Micah Allen and Carson Mittermaier are not far behind, with Allen hitting .357 with 31 RBI and Mittermaier at .335 with 37 RBI. Five Eagles have more than 35 RBI on the season.
Ashland's pitching staff boasts the third and fifth-lowest ERAs in the GLIAC, with Chance Hitchcock in third at 2.51 and Devin Peters in fifth at 3.23. Peters leads the team and conference with 106 strikeouts in 83.2 innings, while Hitchcock is third in the GLIAC with 86 punchouts in 79.0 innings of work. Chris Slavik has been the go-to guy out of the bullpen, making 22 appearances and sporting a 2.61 ERA with six saves.
Scouting the Timberwolves:
Northwood (33-19) fell to Saginaw Valley in the GLIAC semifinals, but earned an at-large berth with a strong GLIAC (17-11) and nonconference resume. The Timberwolves entered their conference tournament as the three-seed, falling in the opening round, upsetting Ashland 4-3 in the next round, but then falling to SVSU 6-3 in the semifinal. As GLIAC opponents in 2018, the Dragons and Timberwolves met four times during the regular season and once in the conference tournament, with Northwood taking all five contests.
The Timberwolves have a high-powered offense, hitting .311 as a team, led by David Vinsky's .371 average and 48 RBI. Vinsky is only third on the team in RBI, though, as Nick Palmer leads the GLIAC with 58 and Cole Brooks is fourth with 49. Palmer and Brooks also hit for high averages, at .367 and .327, respectively.
Max Bain has tossed the most innings for Northwood with 72.1 in 13 starts, and holds a 7-3 record with four complete games, a 4.11 ERA, and 71 strikeouts (fifth in GLIAC). Jake Gross leads the team in wins with an 8-2 mark, sporting a 5.09 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. Lennon Gwizdala is the closer, recording a conference-leading eight saves on the year and holding a 2.56 ERA in 19 appearances.
Scouting the Knights:
Bellarmine (33-19) is the third and final automatic qualifier in the Midwest Region, as the Knights made a run similar to Tiffin's in the GLVC Tournament, coming in as the seven-seed and going 4-0 against the #1, #2, #4, and #6 seeds to claim the title. However, that #7 seed is somewhat misleading, as the top nine teams in the conference were separated by just three games, with a three-way tie for first at 22-11, a three-way tie for fourth at 21-12, the Knights in seventh at 20-13, and a tie for eighth at 19-14. Bellarmine may have also been the hottest team entering the conference tournament, as they had won 10 of their last 13 and now come into regional play on an eight-game win streak. Since TU joined Division II, the Knights hold a 3-1 advantage over the Dragons, with the most recent matchup occuring in 2015.
The Knights lead the GLVC with a .326 team batting average, bashing 113 doubles and 74 home runs on the season. They are led by the two-headed monster of Matt Higgins and Zac Wiley, who are in the top-five in nearly every GLIAC offensive category. Higgins leads the way with a .429 average, .502 on-base percentage, .724 slugging percentage, 17 doubles, 13 homers, 63 RBI, and 31 walks. Wiley hits .387, slugs .737, and has 15 doubles, 14 home runs, 62 RBI, and 33 walks. That's not all, as Bellarmine has four of the top five batting averages in the conference, with the other two being Chris Gambert (.392) and Alex Phillips (.384). Gambert also has 15 doubles, 14 homers, and 44 RBI. Seven of the nine starters hit over .300.
On the mound, Eddie Mathis is the ace, leading the team and conference with 92.0 innings while holding a 10-2 record, 3.52 ERA, five complete games, and 84 strikeouts. In addition to being one of the top hitters, Alex Phillips has the second-lowest ERA of any Knight starter at 3.69, and has a 4-1 record in 70.2 innings with 75 strikeouts. Anthony Ethington (3.12 ERA) and Brandon Pfaadt (4.25) are the main guys in relief, each with 19 appearances out of the pen.