For the 19th time in the last 21 years, Manchester University is among the final four of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
Tourney information: The Spartans (21-19) are the second seed and open against third-seeded Mt. St. Joseph Thursday, May 11, at Earlham College's Sadler Field in Richmond, Ind. The top-seeded and conference champion Quakers face off against defending tourney champion Rose-Hulman at 12 p.m. … The opening day winners advance to a 9:30 a.m. winner's bracket tilt, with the two losing sides facing off in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Friday, May 12. The winner's bracket contest victor moves into the championship series, slated to begin at 12 p.m. Saturday, May 13, while the loser of the 9:30 a.m. match-up will take on the 12:30 p.m. winner in an elimination game set for 4 p.m. Friday afternoon … The tournament champion receives the conference's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division III Championships.
Spartan Shorts: Coach Rick Espeset's program has seen great success in the loop championships. They've been in the final two nine times since 1998 and been the last team standing six times. The Spartans' record, in the event, is 32-23 which puts them atop the all-time victory list and second in winning percentage, trailing only Rose-Hulman (17-10 – 63 pct.) … If recent numbers are any indication, the 2017 squad could be ready to add to the lore. After a rugged start that saw them victorious in only five of their first 16, the Black and Gold has come on like gangbusters, winning 16 of their last 24. Many factors went into the surge but one of the top ones was an offense that hit .316. Seven starters have a .300-or-better mark, in their last 24 games, led by sophomore outfielder Tyler La Follette (Warsaw, Ind.) (.407, four home runs, 23 RBI, .698 slugging percentage, .536 on-base percentage); freshman designated hitter Joe Gallatin (Muncie, Ind.) (.364, five home runs, 31 RBI, .556 slugging percentage); freshman third baseman Brandin Frazier (Wabash, Ind.) (.343, four doubles, one home run, 10 RBI); and senior outfielder Chad Schultz (Fair Oaks, Ind.) (.326, 12 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 31 RBI, .589 slugging percentage). The pitching staff also came out of their early-season doldrums, in the same span, with junior Brandon Eck (Fort Wayne, Ind.) going 4-1 with a 1.88 earned run average (only nine earned runs allowed in 43 innings) and 25 strikeouts; fellow junior Taylor Kopplin (Westport, Ind.) fashioning a 3-0 record, 3.58 ERA and 25 punch outs; and fellow Class of 2018 member Stephen Pinarski (Goshen, Ind.) tallying a 3-2 record … Overall, three Manchester University players find themselves ranked among multiple league top five statistical categories. Schultz is first in doubles (21), total bases (102) and slugging percentage (.634), sits in a tie for second in home runs (eight) and is fifth in RBI (40); Gallatin is second in RBI (44) and fourth in round trippers (seven); and senior pitcher Cory Ferguson (Fort Wayne, Ind.) is first in appearances (21) and third in wins (six) and saves (four) … The regular season saw the Lions take two of three from the Spartans at Gratz Field in North Manchester. Manchester University's current string against MSJ is 20 wins in the last 24 contests.