RICHMOND, Indiana – The Earlham College baseball team is set to host the 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Baseball Tournament at Randal R. Sadler Stadium this week (May 11-13).
The Tournament: The double elimination tournament will begin on Thursday and run through Saturday with Sunday as a make-up day in case of inclement weather. A complete schedule can be found by visit the tournament home page above.
The Teams: Earlham, Manchester University, Mount St. Joseph University, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The Quakers are the top seed for the tournament after winning the program's first HCAC regular season title with a 26-12 overall record and a 21-6 mark in conference play. The Spartans enter postseason play as the No. 2 seed with a 21-19 overall record and an 18-9 conference mark. The Lions, who have won eight of their last 10 games, are 22-18, have a 16-11 HCAC record, and are the tournament's No. 3 seed while the Fightin' Engineers are 18-22 overall, the No. 4 seed, and also boast a 16-11 conference mark.
The Coaches: Steve Sakosits is in his seventh season leading the Earlham baseball program. A coach of 38 All-HCAC honorees, Sakosits is the program's all-time leader in career victories (142) and has led the Quakers to the HCAC Tournament the past three seasons. Rick Espeset is in his 21st season has head coach at Manchester and led the Spartans to appearances in the NCAA Division III College World Series in 2004 and 2013. Jeff Newman is in his fourth season as MSJ's head baseball coach and makes his first appearance in the HCAC Tournament this year. Jeff Jenkins, the veteran coach in the HCAC, has been Rose-Hulman's head baseball coach for 28 years.
Hitters of Watch: Senior Eric Elkus leads the Quakers and the conference in RBIs with 51 while also sitting in second in home runs in the HCAC with eight. Senior Nate Lynch leads the conference with a .414 batting average and 46 stolen bases while senior Brennan Laird has a .331 batting average, 43 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases. Joe Gallatin and Chad Schultz lead the Spartan offense as both have driven in over 40 runs. Nathan Hunter has a .329 batting average, four home runs, and 28 RBIs for the Lions while David Burnside and Zack Trusk have combined for 69 RBIs to lead Rose-Hulman offensively. Both are also in the top three in the HCAC in batting average.
Pitchers to Watch: Senior Howie Smith leads the Quakers' pitching staff and is fourth in the conference in ERA at 2.62. Smith, who has pitched 79 innings for Earlham, has 66 strikeouts compared to just six walks. Freshman Kyle Gorman is 6-1 on the season and boasts a 3.11 ERA while fellow freshman Spencer Owen has a 1.27 ERA and three saves for the Quakers' bullpen. Brandon Eck has the lowest ERA (3.74) of the Manchester pitching staff while hurling a team-high 67.1 innings. Alex Wagner carries a 2.38 ERA and 53 strikeouts despite a 1-5 record for MSJ while Ian Grant has pitched 72.2 innings for Rose-Hulman.
Chasing Career Program Records: Eric Elkus, who already broke the career RBIs record, is one home run away from tying Ryan Hayes' (2011-14) program record of 25.
National Statistics: Earlham leads NCAA Division III baseball stolen baes (137) and stolen bases per game (3.91). Nate Lynch leads the nation in stolen bases (46) and stolen bases per game (1.26).
HCAC Tournament History: Earlham has qualified for the HCAC Tournament for the third consecutive year in 2017. The Quakers did not win a game at the 2015 HCAC Tournament and lost to Rose-Hulman in the championship round last year.
Coverage: Live statistics and live video of all contests will be available – visit the HCAC Tournament home page above.