May 14, 2002
NKU TO MEET SVSU IN NCAAs
Norse (35-22) face Cardinals (35-10) on Thursday
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The Northern Kentucky University baseball team will meet Saginaw Valley State University at noon this Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Division II North Central Regional Tournament at Ashland, Ohio.
NKU, now 35-22 after a 5-3 win over Saint Josephs College in the championship game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament on Sunday, will make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1990. NKU - which has won 17 of its last 20 games - is ranked No. 20 nationally in the latest NCAA Division II poll.
NKU is the No. 2 seed in the North Central Regional, and Saginaw Valley State (35-10) is the No. 3 seed. Top-seeded Ashland University (44-11) will meet No. 4 seed Grand Valley State University (29-15) in the other first-round game at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
Play will continue through Saturday in the double-elimination format. The winner of the North Central Regional will advance to the NCAA Division II World Series in Montgomery, Ala., May 25-June 1.
ABOUT THE NORSE: NKU is led by senior center fielder Justin Rahschulte, who is batting .365 with seven home runs, seven triples, 17 doubles and 47 runs batted in. Rahschulte - a first team All-GLVC selection - is NKUs career leader with 13 triples, and he owns a .635 slugging percentage this season.
Senior catcher Jason Martin became NKUs all-time career hits leader last Sunday with an eighth-inning RBI single that snapped a 3-3 tie and keyed the Norses 5-3 win against Saint Josephs. Martin, who enters the NCAA Tournament with 264 career hits, is batting .342 with eight home runs and 49 RBI.
Senior third baseman Pat Eschan leads NKU with 11 home runs, and he has hit a school-record 21 doubles this season. Eschan is also batting .348 with 58 runs scored.
Senior first baseman Steve Walton has collected a school-record 66 RBI this season and is batting .340. Walton also has eight home runs and 17 doubles. Sophomore second baseman NKU Shaun Erie (.352 batting average) needs just four hits to tie the school record for hits in a season. Erie has 77 hits, and 81 is the record.
NKU senior right-hander Lenny Bays owns a 9-2 record with a 2.11 earned run average. Bays, named the GLVCs Pitcher of the Year, also has a team-leading 75 strikeouts. Bays has limited opposing hitters to a .209 batting average this season.
Freshman reliever Brandon Evans is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA. Evans also has three saves. Senior right-hander Josh Whaley is 7-5 with 49 strikeouts this season. Whaley is NKUs all-time career leader with 286.1 innings pitched.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS: NKU will face a Saginaw Valley State team that features sophomore first baseman Adam Piggott, who is batting .389 with nine home runs and 51 RBI. Senior third baseman Mike Condon is hitting .365 with 10 doubles.
The Cardinals pitching staff is led by sophomore right-hander Heath Craven, who owns an 8-0 record with a 3.67 ERA.
NCAA II North Central Regional
at Ashland, Ohio
Thursday, May 16
NKU (35-22) vs. Saginaw Valley State (35-10), noon
Ashland (44-11) vs. Grand Valley State (29-15), 3 p.m.
Friday, May 17
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 10 a.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 1 p.m.
Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
Winner Game 4 vs. Winner game 5, noon
(Game 7 if necessary, 3 p.m.