Sports / The Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com
Road tripping: Third-seeded Hornets open NCAA play in Newport News regional
By Jeff Nations - email@example.com
Shenandoah University's final baseball season as a member of the USA South Conference isn't over quite yet.
On Monday, the school found out that it had been selected to play in the NCAA Division III tournament for the fourth straight season. The Hornets, earned a Pool C (at-large) bid into the postseason and are the No. 3 seed in the Newport News Regional.
Shenandoah (29-11) is slated to begin play next season in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), but before that happens the Hornets will try to earn their third appearance in four years at the NCAA national championships in Appleton, Wis. To do that, Shenandoah has to win its region. The eight regional winners then advance to the double-elimination championship May 25-29 in Appleton.
Getting even this far has been an accomplishment, as the Hornets had to replace five starters off last season's squad, plus lost three-fourths of last year's starting rotation and had holes to fill in the bullpen as well.
"We knew we were in contention for a bid, but you never know until you actually get the call," Anderson said. "This tournament is set up not to consider what you did in previous years, but based on what you did this year."
The Hornets did plenty, even after losing projected closer Kyle Scallion to injury early in the season. Scallion has been back about a month, bolstering the Hornets' bullpen as they head into Wednesday's opening game against Rowan (N.J.). Freshman Matt Riegler, who replaced Scallion as SU's closer, won USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Year honors
"For playing 40 games, I think we're in pretty good shape," Anderson said. I think the rest has helped a few guys get over some bumps and bruises. I don't necessarily like taking 17 days off -- you get tired of banging on each other in practice."
The Hornets have the advantage of some familiarity with much of the Newport News region, having compiled a 3-4 record against teams in their region. Shenandoah took one of three matchups with conference rival and top-seeded Christopher Newport, and the Hornets split a pair of games with future ODAC opponent Lynchburg and beat Messiah in their lone matchup.
Shenandoah opens play in the double-elimination tournament on Wednesday with a game against No. 4 seed Rowan (30-13).
Junior right-hander Vince Claudio will get the start for the Hornets in Wednesday's 4:30 p.m. regional opener. It will mark the third straight season that Claudio has pitched in the NCAA regionals for Shenandoah.
Offensively, the Hornets compiled a .327 team batting average and scored 7.85 runs per game. Designated hitter Nick Beall (.422, 30 RBIs) and outfielder Jake Pendergraft (.400, 6 home runs, 41 RBIs) both earned first-team All-USA South Conference honors this season.
Anderson credits strong leadership from his senior class, especially team captains Cory Nelson, Pendergraft and Scallion, with helping see the team over any rough spots this season.
"Our three captains, not only did they have outstanding years production-wise, but they're all tremendous leaders," Anderson said.