2012 St. Thomas Baseball 46-game notes/May 22
--UP NEXT: St. Thomas (38-8) will play Christopher Newport (34-8) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the first round of the eight-team, double-elimination national tournament in Grand Chute, Wis. The field includes two unranked teams -- first-time qualifiers Webster (Mo.) and Whitworth (Wash.); plus No. 1-ranked Marietta; No. 2-ranked Cortland (N.Y.) State; No. 8 (Kean (N.J.) and No. 9-ranked Wheaton (Mass.).
Click here to see NCAA bracket and schedule:
--LAST WEEK: The Tommies went 4-0 in the eight-team Whitewater regional. They scored a 5-1 win over St. Norbert; held off host UW-Whitewater 5-3; scored a 22-2 win over St. Scholastica; and rallied to beat Whitewater 10-6. UST’s 42-12 scoring margin in four games was in stark contrast to their 2011 regional trip to Whitewater when they allowed just eight runs in three games but went 1-2.
--PLAYOFF LOG: The Tommies have reached the NCAA playoffs for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons and 18th time overall, with NCAA crowns in 2001 and 2009 and runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2000. The Toms qualified for the NCAA playoffs in 1986; each season from 1995-2002; and each year since 2004. Of their 22 trips for regionals and nationals since 1995, 21 of them have been a bus ride into Wisconsin (all except the 1999 finals in Salem, Va.). St. Thomas' all-time NCAA playoff record is 56-34, and their all-time record in the conference playoffs is 35-13, for a postseason record of 91-47.
--STREAKERS: UST had a school-record 21-game win streak halted May 2 with a 9-2 loss at Division I Minnesota… The Toms have won 26 in a row on their home diamond.
--POLL: St. Thomas was unranked in the preseason top 25 polls after a 28-18 finish in 2011. UST slowly climbed up both Division III polls and was ranked as high as second nationally to start May. The Toms finished No. 4 in the final D3Baseball.com poll before regional tournaments.
--TRIPLE THREAT: UST's top three starters -- senior lefty Bryce Gapinski, junior RHP Dylan Thomas and sophomore RHP Steve Maher -- are a combined 28-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 215 strikeouts and just 47 walks in 231 innings.
--CHARLES IN CHARGE: Current senior Charles Bruchu (pronounced BRUSH-ee) is a fifth-year senior who missed the 2009 NCAA championship season with an injury, so this is his first trip to the national finals. Bruchu is among seven seniors who missed St. Thomas' graduation ceremonies on Saturday while playing in the regional title game. In nine postseason games in the last two weeks, Bruchu is batting .514 with 19 hits, 14 RBI and 13 runs. He has a 10-game hitting streak. He’s had surgeries on each of his shoulders during his career. He’s a career .404 hitter in 26 games of postseason play (42 hits, 13 walks). After starting the season 2-for-15, Bruchu is batting .386 over his last 40 games. He has 163 hits in 145 career games.
--MR. UTILITY: Junior Dylan Thomas has led the Toms with his arm and bat. Thomas, who hit 16 career HRs at Lakeville North High School, has six HRs with Tommies, all in last 22 games (three in last two games of the regional. He was a pitcher the last two seasons at Des Moines Area Community College, where he had only had one total plate appearance but pitched in 2011 junior college World Series. Thomas had only two plate appearances in the Toms’ first 19 games but was inserted as starting designated hitter and has led team in hitting at .385 since his April 4 starting debut. He homered twice Saturday in 10-6 regional championship game victory over Whitewater (sixth and seventh innings) after UST trailed 5-4. He was named the tourney's Most Outstanding Player. In 67 innings pitched he has 67 strikeouts and 18 walks. At the plate, he had a nine-game hitting streak in April, and on the season he has .692 slugging percentage. He’s also been selected MIAC Pitcher of the Year and first-team All-Midwest Region utility player
--SLOW START: In his first four pitching appearances of 2012, Thomas was 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA. In his last 11 appearances, he’s 7-0 with an 0.90 ERA.
--SPECIAL K: Sophomore RHP Steve Maher was selected Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year by D3Baseball.com. A first-year Tommie, Maher is 12-1 with a 2.10 ERA, and 94 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 81.1 innings. He has beaten nationally- or regionally-ranked St. Scholastica, UW-LaCrosse, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater, Chicago and St. John's. He's allowed just one earned run in 14 innings in the postseason, including a complete-game victory in the MIAC playoffs with 16 strikeouts. He needs one victory to break the Tommie record for season wins, and needs four Ks to pass Coach Chris Olean (97 in 1999) at No. 2 on the UST season strikeout list.
--OLD RELIABLE: Gapinski is 9-0 with an 1.51 ERA, seven complete games, four shutouts, and only 11 walks in 83.1 innings. On his career, he's made 48 appearances and 44 starts and is 28-5, with a 2.14 ERA, and his 28 wins are the second most in conference history. In 20-game MIAC stats, Gapinski was 4-0 and had only seven walks in 34 innings. He added a shutout win in the MIAC playoffs, and has allowed just one earned run in his last 40 innings. In 11 career postseason appearances he’s 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA (18 earned runs in 77 innings).
--OLD… AND RELIABLE: St. Thomas senior DH Nick Reichert is the conference’s oldest baseball player at age 27. He’s a 2003 graduate of Minneapolis Southwest High, where he was All-City in four sports (football, soccer, hockey and baseball). Nick played two seasons of hockey for St. Thomas and was a member of UST’s 2005 national runner-up team. He scored two goals that season. He took a break from school but came back to campus last year and has been a key contributor to several wins in 2011 and 2012. He’s batting .314 with 27 hits and 20 RBI as a part-time starter.
--WHO’S HOT: Besides Bruchu and the previously mentioned pitchers, 2B Sam Miller went 6-for-11 with five runs at the regional; catcher J.D. Dorgan has 12 hits and four walks in nine postseason games; OF Jack Hogan had six hits at the regional and has a nine-game hitting streak; OF Tim Kuzniar has 12 hits, three walks and nine RBI in nine postseason games; and senior 1B Dan Reichert is hitting .423 (11-for-26) in eight postseason games and has a 10-game hitting streak (and 16 of last 17).
--TRADITION: St. Thomas baseball has won 30 or more games in 15 of the last 17 seasons. The Tommies have won an unprecedented 10 consecutive championships in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This season, UST started 18-0 but split on the last day of the conference season to end a 30-game MIAC regular-season win streak. The 19-1 finish tied a record for most wins since the league expanded to 20 games in 1984.
--MILESTONE: Third-year head coach Chris Olean won his 100th game Friday in the regional tournament and takes a 101-35 record into the national finals. Olean was a senior All-America pitcher in 1999 on UST's first national tournament team (He pitched a nine-inning complete game and lost 1-0 in title game to NC Wesleyan on St. Thomas runner-up finisher in Virginia). This is UST's first College World Series in his three seasons as head coach. He was a nine-year Tommie assistant coach (pitching coach) including on both the 2001 and 2009 championship teams. In his 12 years on the coaching staff since 2001 St. Thomas has won 401 games.
--STAT TALK: St. Thomas is 37-4 in games when it scores three or more runs… The Toms have nine comeback wins… UST is 14-1 in games decided by one or two runs after going 7-12 in such games in 2011… The Toms rank near the top nationally among 365 Division III programs with .976 field % -- only 19 of their 38 errors have come from infielders (1B, 2B, SS, 3B). UST is 27-5 in games when it commits one or less errors… UST baseball has over a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and also rank in the top-10 among D-III teams with the fewest walks per nine innings… Opposing pinch-hitters are just 2-for-27 against Tommie pitching.
--BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Three UST seniors -- pitchers Gapinski and John Licht and 1B-DH John Means -- were freshmen on the 2009 NCAA championship team and have played each of the last four years on varsity. Gapinski pitched the first five innings of NCAA title game against Wooster and left trailing 2-1 (Toms won 3-2 in 12 innings). Licht pitched and took the win in a Monday elimination game vs. Carthage to send UST into the final day.
--DID YOU KNOW?: St. Thomas and Florida State are the lone NCAA institutions at any level to send both baseball and softball teams to the NCAA playoffs in each of the last nine seasons.
--STILL THE ONE: Out of 1,000 NCAA institutions at the Division I, II and III levels, St. Thomas is the only one to have secured at least one NCAA team championship in each of the sports of baseball, softball and men’s and women’s basketball. St. Thomas has won 14 NCAA team titles in seven different sports (men's and women's basketball; baseball; softball; men's indoor track; men's and women's cross country).
--TOP 10?: In this school year, the Tommies are making a bid for a top-12 national finish in the Directors Cup all-sport race. They set an MIAC record as the first institution to win 13 (of a possible 22) conference regular-season team titles. They have already had top-5 national finishes in football, volleyball, women's basketball and men's indoor track. They were beaten in the NCAA playoffs by the eventual champion in football (semifinals), men's basketball (second round), women's basketball (semifinals) and men's hockey (first round).
(Thomas Whisenand photo)