D3Baseball.com No. 13-ranked and American Baseball Coaches Association Division III No. 15-ranked Manchester University welcomes the 2013 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships to Gratz Field Thursday-Saturday, May 9-11. Fans can follow each game via live stats and all Spartan games, via live audio, at links at www.muspartans.com.
The Spartans (32-5-1) captured their fifth overall Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title and second in the last three years. MU has won nine in a row overall and 16 of their last 20 at home en route to their first 30-plus wins campaign since 2006.
Manchester University is joined by second-seeded Anderson University, third-seeded Franklin College and fourth-seeded Defiance College. The Spartans take on Defiance in one of two games Thursday, May 9, at 12 p.m., while Anderson and Franklin clash at 3:30 p.m. The tournament schedule continues Friday, May 10, with games at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 11, with the championship round slated to begin at 12 p.m. and an if necessary game at 3:30 p.m. MU has won 12 of the last 16 against Defiance in the all-time series.
The tournament victor earns the HCAC's automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships. The Black and Gold is the defending champions and has won it four times since 2002.
MU goes into the weekend with seven team and five individual categories ranked within the top 10 of NCAA Division III. The Spartans' 2.44 staff earned run average is second only to Keystone College of Pennsylvania's 2.0, while their win-loss percentage of 85.5 is third, trailing only Concordia University of Chicago (86.1 – 31-5) and UW-Whitewater (85.7 – 30-5). They are fifth in scoring, averaging 8.9 runs per game, sixth in on-base percentage (.429) eighth in both total runs (340) and doubles per game (2.61) and ninth in being hit by pitches (75). Individually, junior third baseman Jordan Nieman (Michigan City, Ind.) leads the country in RBIs per game (1.66), is second in overall RBIs (63) trailing only California Lutheran's Nick Bogan's 65 and is also seventh in total bases (109). Senior Bryce Murphy (Ossian, Ind.) is ninth in runs per game (1.37), while senior pitcher Kyle Konarski (Elkhart, Ind.) is fifth in wins (nine).
Those numbers also play out well on the current conference statistics report. Nieman tops the league in RBIs and home runs (nine), Murphy is first in ERA (1.16), and Konarski's nine victories top the conference. Murphy is also a close second in saves (eight) and is third in batting average (.389). Looking further into the HCAC numbers, sophomore second baseman Trevor Kimm (Anderson, Ind.) is fourth in batting average (.382), third in RBIs (42) and fourth in home runs (six); Konarski is second in ERA (1.85); senior Justin Scott (Fort Wayne, Ind.) is third in ERA (1.91) and third in wins (seven); junior Dylan Padgett (Kirklin, Ind.) is fifth in ERA (2.48); and senior outfielder Cody Schell (Granger, Ind.) is tied for fourth in stolen bases (15.).
Nieman, among the team's offensive leaders, enters the tournament with a team-best 15-game hitting streak. Sophomore designated hitter/outfielder Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) is close behind having hit in 13 straight contests. The two also have long on-base streaks with Nieman reaching in 18 straight and Norris at 17. Senior first baseman Brad Murphy (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Kimm are each at-or-above 20 successive games in having reached base with Murphy at 27 and Kimm standing at 20. Another impressive individual streak belongs to Konarski who has won 12 consecutive decisions.
Murphy Honored: Bryce Murphy was recently recognized for his success in the classroom by Capital One/CoSida (Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America) as a first team academic All-District VII NCAA Division III member. An accounting major with a 3.55 grade-point average, Murphy was one of two HCAC student-athletes on the squad. His name now goes on the national ballot for academic All-American consideration.