PHIL HICKS, email@example.com
The goal for six baseball teams this weekend in the Tyler is to reach the land of badgers and cheese.
But first, the squads are in the land of longhorns and oil … and a few roses.
UT Tyler is hosting the NCAA Division III West Regional with the winner advancing next week to the NCAA D-III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Not only are the Patriots hosts, but also the No. 1 seeds in the tourney.
Action gets underway Thursday as UT Tyler (39-7) kicks things off with No. 6 Rhodes (Tennessee) (25-19) at 11 a.m.
No. 2 California Lutheran (31-10) follows with a 2:30 p.m. contest with No. 5 Concordia-Texas (28-16).
Game 3 has No. 3 Centenary (Louisiana) (34-8) taking on No. 4 Linfield (Oregon) (30-11) at 6 p.m.
Games continue on Friday and Saturday with the championship at noon Sunday.
All games are slated for Irwin Field at UT Tyler Ballpark.
This is the seventh NCAA postseason appearance for the Patriots and the first NCAA baseball regional in Tyler.
Brent Porche is in his first season as head coach at UT Tyler. His Patriots have tied a school record for wins (39) and would like to set the new mark this weekend. His team has outscored opponents by a 334-181 margin this season and is 25-3 in games played in Tyler. UT Tyler went 6-1 in the ASC tournament, including winning three games in extra innings.
UT Tyler senior Daniel Williams (Katy) enters the NCAA tournament on an 18-game hitting streak and leads the nation with 79 hits. Williams has a .414 batting average, while Trenton Buchhorn (Arlington, transfer from Tyler Junior College) leads the team with a .417 average. Buchhorn, Williams and Cody Brown (Fulshear) were ASC first-team selections and Buchhorn comes into the NCAA tournament with 35 RBI this season and 95 in his two-year career with the Patriots.
At the top of the lineup, Tim Hunter (Austin) leads the nation with 60 walks. A senior shortstop, Hunter also has 17 RBIs and 16 stolen bases, while second baseman Gunnar Quick, a senior from Lufkin, leads the team with 47 runs scored and has 26 RBIs.
Kyle Broussard smashed his third home run of the season - a grand slam to give the Patriots the 6-1 lead in his final at-bat of the ASC tournament. A senior catcher from Tatum, Broussard is hitting .384 this season with 25 singles and three homers.
Graham Welch (Plano) was named the ASC Championship Blue Bracket MVP in the first weekend of the tournament and enters this weekend with a .369 batting average that includes four doubles, two triples, four home runs and 31 singles. Welch missed the first 20 games of the season but has picked right back up from a phenomenal freshman season to provide 23 RBIs in 26 games of his sophomore season.
Alex Bishop (Calgary, Alberta) also missed some time this season but is in postseason form right now. The junior first baseman is hitting .351 with five doubles, a triple, and four home runs and also has 25 RBI. He has 30 singles for the Patriots this season and 26 runs scored.
Ben Romines (Tyler, Robert E. Lee) is hitting .331 with six doubles, five triples, and a home run and has established a program record by being hit by 18 pitches. He enters the tournament having scored 33 runs this season, while Blake Wilson (Midlothian) has scored 24 runs and has a .310 batting average. Wilson is a sophomore third baseman who has produced 22 RBI with 40 singles, four doubles and one triple.
On the mound, UT Tyler has been led all season by starters Brown (10-2), Cason Adams (8-0) and Ryan Cheatham (9-0). Brown, a senior transfer from Sam Houston State, earned both wins in last weekend’s conference tournament and enters the regional with 82 strikeouts and a 2.56 ERA. He helped TJC win two national championships
Adams is a four-year pitcher at UT Tyler and has a 24-9 career record with 208 strikeouts in 50 career appearances. The Rockwall native is one of only three pitchers in program history to pass 200 strikeouts and owns the program record with 44 career starts and with 268 1/3 innings pitched.
Cheatham is in his first season with the Patriots after transferring from TJC. A junior from Whitehouse, Cheatham has recorded 52 strikeouts and has a 3.33 ERA in a team-leading 77 2/3 innings of work. Opponents are being limited to a .214 batting average against him this season.
Reese Read (Bridgeport, transfer from TJC) leads the team with eight saves and has a 4-1 record entering this weekend. A senior right-hander, Read also leads the team by limiting opponents to a .169 batting average. He has 29 strikeouts in 26 innings over 23 appearances. Hunter Palmer (Huntington) also has 23 appearances this season to match the team-high and has 25 strikeouts and three saves, while Miles Thomas (Clinton, Mississippi) has 22 strikeouts and a 2.43 ERA in 21 appearances and 29 2/3 innings of work. The UT Tyler pitching staff has a 3.50 ERA in 400 2/3 innings of work this season.
Rhodes College, located in Memphis, won its second Southern Athletic Association Conference Championship in three seasons.
Lynx junior pitcher Nick Ferngren (Coral Springs, Florida) was named to the all-conference first team, while senior pitcher Blake Glauben (Houston), sophomore infielder Nick Bosma (Overland Park, Kansas) and sophomore catcher Jacob Telli (Hendersonville, Tennessee) were all selected second team. Senior outfielder Bennett Notestine (Houston), junior pitcher/infielder Jack Mercer (Houston), freshman infielder Jon Michael Lauck (Plano) and freshman outfielder/pitcher Paul Giacomazzi (Porter Ranch, California) were all named to honorable mention.
PATRIOT POINTS: The winner of the West Regional will advance to the NCAA D-III Championships, which will be played from May 26-31 at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton. … Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and children under 3 get in free.
NCAA Division III Baseball
At Irwin Field
Hosted by UT Tyler
Game 1: No. 1 UT Tyler (39-7) vs. No. 6 Rhodes (Tennessee) (25-19), 11 a.m.
Game 2: No. 2 California Lutheran (31-10) vs. No. 5 Concordia-Texas (28-16), 2:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 3 Centenary (Louisiana) (34-8) vs. No. 4 Linfield (Oregon) (30-11), 6 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 6 p.m.
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, noon
Game 11: Game 10 winner vs. Game 10 loser, if necessary, TBA