2012 NAC Baseball Tournament Preview
FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- The 2012 Northern Athletics Conference Baseball Tournament field looks a little different than it has is seasons past, as the event has been expanded to a six-team double-elimination tournament for the first time in 6 years.
The league's top six teams -- Aurora, Benedictine, Concordia Chicago, Rockford, Edgewood and Dominican -- will compete for the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA III Championship Tournament. Marian is hosting this year's conference tournament at Herr-Baker Field in Fond du Lac, Wis., while one game on opening day will be played at Tiedemann Field in Oshkosh, Wis.
Four games will be played on Thursday, May 10, and four more on Friday, May 11, while championship Saturday will have two or three games, if necessary.
Regular-season NAC Champion and top-seeded Aurora (32-8, 18-4 NAC) will face sixth-seeded Dominican (20-20, 11-11) in the opening game on Thursday at 1 p.m. Aurora, currently ranked 19th in the D3baseball.com poll and 20th in the ABCA poll, swept Dominican in the teams' regular-season finale, 25-1 and 12-2.
Aurora is seeking its third-straight tournament title and trip to the NCAA tournament. The Spartans come in with a sterling record and winners of seven straight. Aurora holds the top ERA in the league at 2.53 and is second in team batting average at .344. The Spartans led the NAC in run differential, outscoring their opponents 348-148 (+200). They lead with 100 doubles as well, marking the fifth straight year that they have totaled 100 or more doubles in a single campaign.
The Stars have had trouble finding consistency this season, but have been resilient in getting big bounce-back wins. They have seven wins this year following losses in which they allowed double-digit runs. Facing a 5-9 league mark, the Stars went on to win six straight conference games, and despite being swept by Aurora in the season finale, they clinched the sixth and final spot in the program's first NAC tournament appearance. Dominican ranks first in the NAC with 123 stolen bases and is second in hit-by-pitches with 52.
Game two will match third-seeded Concordia Chicago (30-10, 17-5) up with fourth-seeded Rockford (23-16, 17-5). The teams' split the season series as Rockford took game one, 4-2, and CUC game two, 7-3. First-pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Herr-Baker Field.
The Cougars, ranked 23rd in the recent ABCA poll, have five winning streaks of four or more games and have reached 30 or more wins for the fifth-straight season. They lead the conference in batting average at .360 and rank second in pitching with a 3.42 ERA. Concordia Chicago scored more runs than any other NAC team, averaging 9.1 runs per game, while outscoring its opponents by 198 runs (364-166). The Cougars are seeking their second NAC tournament title since capturing their first back in 2009. They have finished runner-up three times, including last year's 11-3 title game loss to Aurora.
The Regents are 23-7 since going 0-9 out of the gates. Riding high with the best league mark heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Rockford had a chance to secure the top seed in the tournament, but Benedictine cooled them off with a sweep at home. Prior to that, the Regents had won 10-straight games, including 18-of-20 overall. They were driven by their offense down the stretch despite a 5.29 ERA this season, which was good for seventh in the NAC. Rockford turned in a .327 batting average, which ranked third in the league.
Game three is also scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch, but will take place at UW-Oshkosh's Tiedemann Field. Second-seeded Benedictine (26-14, 17-5) will square off against fifth-seeded Edgewood (17-21, 13-9) in the battle of the Eagles. The teams' split this season as the Eagles from Lisle won the first game, 11-8, and the Eagles from Madison won the second game, 3-2.
Since the road split with Edgewood back on April 7, Benedictine is 17-3 over its last 20 games, including an 11-1 mark in its last 12. Benedictine swept Rockford in its NAC regular season finale to claim the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Benedictine ranks fourth in batting average at .317 and third with a 4.18 ERA. Benedictine is making its second-straight tournament appearance and fourth overall dating back to 2007, finishing no higher than third place.
Sitting at 6-6 midway through the conference schedule, Edgewood turned it on, winning seven of its last 10 NAC games to claim the fifth seed. Edgewood didn't post any gaudy statistics, finishing the regular season fifth in the league in batting average (.299) and eighth in earned run average (5.75), but Edgewood has gone 10-1 in one-run games this season, including a stretch of three straight one-run wins April 21-22 that built momentum for the stretch run it needed to secure a spot in the now six-team NAC tournament.
For all the latest information regarding the tournament, including links to live stats and video, as well as the visitors guide, please visit: SabreAthletics.com, NorthernAC.org or follow on Twitter for updates @NorthernAC and @MUSabres.
#1 Aurora Spartans: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results
#2 Benedictine Eagles: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results
#3 Concordia Chicago Cougars: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results
#4 Rockford Regents: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results
#5 Edgewood Eagles: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results
#6 Dominican Stars: Team Site | Roster | Stats | Results