Lions headed to HCAC tournament for the first time in nine years

Lions headed to HCAC tournament for the first time in nine years

CINCINNATI, Ohio-- The Mount St. Joseph University baseball team is headed to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in nine seasons. The Lions have grown exponentially this season under the leadership of fourth year head coach Jeff Newman. After the first two weeks of the conference schedule the Lions had only a 3-4 record inside the HCAC. At this point making it to the conference tournament seemed an unlikely ending for the 2017 season. 

Since that point though the Lions only lost one conference series, that to regular season champion Earlham. Even with that outstanding run with a week and a half left in the season they found themselves on the outside looking in. The Lions though saved some of their best baseball of the season for the stretch run. Eventually closing the season with a sweep of perennial HCAC title contender Rose-Hulman, which clinched the post-season birth. 

The Lions have been led this season by a multitude of players at different times. Sophomore Alex Wagner (West Chester, OH/Lakota West) has been the staff ace and a steadying influence in the rotation the entire season. Wagner's 2.38 ERA was good enough for third in the Heartland this season. After spending most of the season as an outfielder and relief pitcher Senior Zak Farmer (Hamilton, OH/Lakota West) was inserted into the rotation late in the season. He won both of his starts throwing 13.0 innings allowing only one run while striking out 11 opposing hitters. Two more seniors held down the backend of the bullpen for the Lions. Jacob Gunnell (Hamilton, OH/ Fairfield) was the Lions primary setup man, he only two earned runs all season over 26.2 innings. And the hammer at the end of the game was Matt Hofmann (Cincinnati, OH/Elder), who allowed only one earned run all season. He also struck out an unbelievable 37 batters in only 18.2 innings on the year, while leading the HCAC for the second year in a row with seven saves. 

Offensively the Lions were also led by multiple players at different times. Outfielder Nathan Hunter (Vevay, IN/Switzerland County) was the one of the most consistent performers. Hunter hit .329 on the year while adding a team high 4 homeruns, and a team high 28 runs batted in. A very pleasant surprise for the Lions this season was the production they received from two freshman. First baseman Roman Rothwell (Monroe, OH/Monroe) hit .350 on the year, with 3 homeruns and 26 runs batted in. Kyree Hawkins entered the season as a backup, but earned his spot in Centerfield due in large part to his stellar defensive play. But he also acclimated himself well offensively hitting .304 on the year. Hofmann was also a important piece of the offense as the starting short stop. He hit .312 on the season, and added a team high 10 stolen bases. 

This season was a true team effort for the Lions, as different players often picked their play up when others were struggling. The pitching staff had multiple players called on to perform in different rolls, with Farmer and Mike Hilliard (Loveland, OH/Clinton Massie) were the best examples of this team mentality. Both career relievers were called on to start meaningful games for the team down the stretch. 

The Lions are set to travel to HCAC regular season champion on Thursday, May 11th. Where they will take on the third seeded Spartans of Manchester, the game will get underway at approximately 3:30 PM. Based on the outcome of the first round matchup the Lions will take to the field again on Friday, and possibly Saturday. 

Check the HCAC baseball tournament home page for Live Stats and Live Video from the tournament. 

FULL SCHEDULE:

GAME     DAY     TIME     TEAM A      TEAM B     LIVE STATS     LIVE VIDEO
Game No. 1   Thursday, May 11   12:00 PM   Earlham   Rose-Hulman   Live Stats   Live Video
Game No. 2   Thursday, May 11   3:30 PM   Manchester   Mount St. Joseph    Live Stats
  Live Video
Game No. 3   Friday, May 12   9:30 AM   Game No. 1 Winner   Game No. 2 Winner   Live Stats
  Live Video
Game No. 4   Friday, May 12   12:30 PM   Game No. 1 Loser   Game No. 2 Loser   Live Stats
  Live Video
Game No. 5   Friday, May 12   4:00 PM   Game No. 3 Loser   Game No. 4 Winner   Live Stats
  Live Video
Game No. 6   Saturday, May 13   12:00 PM   Game No. 3 Winner   Game No. 5 Winner    Live Stats
  Live Video
Game No. 7 (if needed)   Saturday, May 13   3:30 PM   Game No. 3 Winner
  Game No. 5 Winner 
  Live Stats
  Live Video