Golden Eagles Ready for Fort Worth Regional; All Games on ESPN3.com
The Golden Eagles (36-20) are making their 14th consecutive NCAA Regional appearance (fifth-longest active streak) after claiming their 14th straight Summit League Tournament title over the weekend. The tournament championship ties Wichita State (Missouri Valley Conference, 1987-2000) for the second-longest championship streak in college baseball history, behind only 16 consecutive championships for Oklahoma State (Big 8, 1981-96). This is ORU’s 23rd regional appearance and marks the second consecutive season that the Golden Eagles earned a No. 4 regional seed. The other three teams in the Fort Worth Regional -- top-seeded No. 11 TCU (42-17, Mountain West), second-seeded No. 22 Oklahoma (41-17, Big 12) and third-seeded Dallas Baptist (39-17, Independent) -- all earned at-large berths. ORU met Oklahoma last season in the Norman Regional (7-6 OU victory in 10 innings), and twice defeated TCU at the 2004 Austin Regional.
Fort Worth Regional Three Dot Data...
ORU is making its 23rd appearance in NCAA Regional play but its first in Fort Worth ... the Golden Eagles are making their 14th consecutive NCAA Regional appearance ... ORU’s regional streak is the fifth-longest active streak behind Miami (39), Florida State (34), Cal State-Fullerton (20) and Rice (17) ... this is ORU’s first regional appearance in the state of Texas since 2004 at Austin, where the Golden Eagles twice defeated Jim Schlossnagle’s Horned Frogs ... ORU’s only other regional appearances in Texas came in 1998 and 2003, both in College Station ... ORU has just two native Texans on its active Regional roster in LHP Mark Guest (Plano West) and RHP Bryce Smolen (Houston Lamar HS) ... Guest also began his collegiate career at Oklahoma in 2008 ... ORU suffered a 6-4 defeat to TCU on May 17 in Fort Worth ... Oklahoma head coach Sunny Golloway coached at ORU from 1996-2003, compiling a 335-156 overall record and reaching six NCAA Regionals (4-12).
ORU vs. Fort Worth Regional Field
The Golden Eagles are 64-57 all-time vs. the Fort Worth Regional Field. ORU is 25-16 vs. TCU (last met on May 17), 28-33 against Oklahoma (last met in 2010 Norman Regional) and 11-8 against Dallas Baptist (last met in 2009).ORU head coach Rob Walton is a combined 6-11 vs. the Regional field, including 2-5 vs. TCU, 1-2 vs. Oklahoma and 3-4 vs. Dallas Baptist.
ORU All-Time in Regional Play
ORU is 30-44 all-time in NCAA post-season play, including a 30-40 mark in regional games. ORU won regional championships in 1978 and 2006, and advanced to the program’s only College World Series in 1978. Head coach Rob Walton is 12-12 in regional play and 12-14 overall in NCAA post-season games. He is 2-0 in regional play against TCU, and 0-1 against the Sooners. In Regional play ORU is 2-0 vs. TCU and 0-3 against Oklahoma. ORU and Dallas Baptist have never met in the postseason.
ORU Captures 14th Straight Summit League Tournament Title
Spencer Barnett’s one-out RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave ORU a hard-fought 5-4 win over South Dakota State in the Summit League Championship game at Sioux Falls Stadium.
Barnett’s heroics were set up by a stellar pitching effort by Dan Martony (4-0) in the top of the 11th.
As the game moved into extra innings, neither team mounted a serious threat until South Dakota State loaded the bases with none out in the top of the 11th against Sean Johnson. Martony relieved and got a short fly ball to center for the first out, and struck out Joel Blake and Andrew Phelan --- SDSU’s 3-and-4 hole hitters -- to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning Brett Sowers led off with a double to deep right field, missing a game-winning home run by about a foot. Bennett Pickar sacrificed Sowers to third and Barnett, after battling Jackrabbits closer Trevor Vermeulen to a 1-2 count, bounced single past the pitcher’s mound and through a drawn-in infield to score Sowers with the winning run.
Early on the game had the makings of a classic.
South Dakota State took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second as Eric Cain had an RBI single.
ORU tied the game at 1-1 on an RBI single by Pickar in the bottom of the second.
South Dakota State picked up an unearned run in the third. Shortstop Cam Schiller misplayed Jesse Sawyer’s grounder with two outs, allowing Phelan to score from second for a 2-1 lead.
But ORU came right back in the bottom of the inning. Nick Baligod led off with a double and Chris Elder doubled home Baligod to knot the score at 2-2. After Elder advanced to third on a wild pitch, he scored on a sacrifice fly by Schiller as ORU gained a 3-2 lead.
Baligod gave the Golden Eagles a 4-2 advantage with a long solo home run in the seventh inning.
But the cushion was short-lived. Closer Matt Rush relieved Joe Spring, who limited the Jacks to one unearned run and three hits in five innings, to start the eighth and quickly gave up two runs -- one on a passed ball -- as the Jacks tied the game at 4-4.
ORU wasted an opportunity to regain the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Schiller drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a single by Jared Schlehuber. Brett Sowers laid down a squeeze bunt, but Schiller was easily retired at home for the second out. Pickar flew out to end the inning.
Baligod led ORU with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate.
Gonzalez Named Summit Tournament MVP
Freshman RHP Alex Gonzalez was named Summit League Tournament MVP based on his stellar performance against South Dakota State in the winner’s bracket championship game on Saturday.
The Summit League Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year, Gonzalez went the distance against the Jackrabbits allowing one run on three hits while striking out 10 batters in his first career postseason start.
Joining Gonzalez on the all-tournament team were Nick Baligod, T.J. Bennett, Drew Bowen, Chris Elder, Cam Schiller and Jared Schlehuber.
Gonzalez, Walton Take Top Summit League Honors
ORU head coach Rob Walton and ORU freshman pitcher Alex Gonzalez earned top honors as The Summit League announced its annual all-league teams prior to the Summit League Tournament.
Nine Golden Eagles in all were named either first or second team All-Summit.
In his freshman campaign, Gonzalez was named the league’s Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year after compiling a 1.90 ERA and perfect 5-0 record in league contests. In those games, he allowed just 10 earned runs in 47.1 innings of work, while striking out 47 batters against only 18 walks. The right-hander also had three complete games and one shutout, while league opponents hit just .202 against him. For the year, his 2.86 ERA led the league with a 7-5 overall record and 89 strikeouts.
Gonzalez collected four Pitcher of the Week awards and was selected to College Baseball Foundation’s weekly “National All-Star Lineup” sponsored by Diamond on March 16 after striking out 13 Bethune-Cookman batters for his first career complete game.
Gonzalez is the 12th Golden Eagle to win Pitcher of the Year, and the 10th ORU baseball player to be named Newcomer of the Year. He is the first freshman in Summit League history to win both awards in the same season.
Walton led Oral Roberts to its record 13th-straight regular season league title with a 21-7 mark and 33-20 overall record. The skipper collects his fifth Coach of the Year honor in eight seasons at the helm of the Golden Eagle program. Walton has led ORU to the NCAA Tournament every year and the looks for its 14th consecutive league championship title, which is the third-longest streak in the nation. The Golden Eagles have made 12-straight NCAA Tournaments appearances. Walton notched his 300th career win with an 11-7 win at San Diego State on April 3. Walton was also named pitching coach for the 2011 Collegiate National Team by USA Baseball.
Joining Gonzalez on the All-Summit first team were OF Nick Baligod (.358-7-39, 15 SB), OF Chris Elder (.330-10-51) and DH Brandon King (.314-8-47).
Earning second-team honors were SS Cam Schiller (.345-6-52), UTL T.J. Bennett (.300-3-20), SP Drew Bowen (5-2, 1.96), SP Joe Spring (4-1, 3.31) and RP Matt Rush (9 saves, 4.05).
Perhaps lost in the dramatic way in which ORU clinched its 14th straight Summit League Tournament title is the performance of RHP Joe Spring. A second-team All-Summit selection, Spring tossed five innings of relief and allowed one unearned run while allowing just three hits to the league’s most potent offense.
Spring’s efforts helped ORU erase an early 2-1 deficit and build a 4-2 lead before the Golden Eagles’ eighth-inning collapse and the dramatic happenings of the 11th inning.
ORU is making its 14th straight NCAA Regional appearance this weekend, which is currently the fifth-longest active streak. Other lengthy streaks include:
Miami (Fla.) 39
Florida State 34
Cal State-Fullerton 20
Oral Roberts 14
Gonzalez Tops Freshmen in IP, Strikeouts
It’s been a banner year for freshman RHP Alex Gonzalez. In addition to being named Summit League Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year and Summit League Tournament MVP, he also enters Regional play leading all college freshmen in innings pitched and strikeouts.
Alex Gonzalez, ORU 103.1
Justin Hageman, WKU 100.2
Adam Plutko, UCLA 100.0
Alex Gonzalez, ORU 99
Justin Mesa, TAMUCC 98
Austin Kubitza, Rice 93
After hitting just eight home runs in the season’s first 30 games, the Golden Eagles are enjoying a power surge of sorts. Over the last 26 games, ORU has connected for 33 homers, easily surpassing its season total from the first two months. During that span, OFs Chris Elder (8) and Nick Baligod (6) have combined to hit 14 homers. Despite the power display, the Golden Eagles won’t come close to matching last season’s school record total of 105 home runs.
Nice to Have You Back
ORU’s late-season resurgence seems to have coincided with the return of 1B Jared Schlehuber to the lineup.
After injuring his left shoulder on a check swing against Wichita State on Feb. 22, the right-handed hitting Schlehuber missed the next 31 games after undergoing surgery, finally returning in time for ORU’s early May series at Oakland.
ORU was a middling 21-14 in his absence, but has surged to a 14-3 mark since his return. Schlehuber is hitting .288-2-12 since being cleared to play.
Walton Captures 300th Career Victory
Cam Schiller and Spencer Barnett combined to drive in seven runs and Oral Roberts head coach Rob Walton picked up career win No. 300 as the Golden Eagles defeated San Diego State 11-7, Sunday, April 3 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
Walton is third all-time at ORU in coaching victories, and is the third coach in program history to reach 300 victories.
Summit League Dominance
With 14 straight Summit League titles, the Golden Eagles are now tied for the second-longest streak in NCAA history with Wichita State’s 14-straight Missouri Valley titles (1987-2000), and are closing in on Oklahoma State’s record of 16 consecutive Big Eight crowns (1981-96).
Since joining the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference) for the 1998 season, ORU is 276-41 (.870) in Summit League regular-season games, and 244-31 (.887) since 2000. The Golden Eagles own a 45-1 (.978) tournament record, giving ORU a 321-42 (.884) overall record in conference contests. Under coach Rob Walton, the Golden Eagles are 183-28 (.867) against league opponents, including a perfect 24-0 in post-season play. ORU has won 36 consecutive Summit League tournament games since last suffering a loss to Southern Utah in the 2000 tournament.
Freshmen of Influence
ORU might not have won its 13th straight Summit League regular season title had it not been for the contributions of freshman RHP Alex Gonzalez and fellow freshman INF T.J. Bennett.
Drafted in the 11th round as a senior at Boca Raton (Fla.) Community HS, Gonzalez wasted no time in asserting himself as ORU’s top starting pitcher. The Summit League’s Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year and a four-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week, Gonzalez enters Regional play with an 8-5 record and a 2.61 ERA. His eight victories are the most by an ORU freshman since 2001, and his 99 strikeouts are two off the freshman record set by Tim McCoy in 1985. Gonzalez was even better in League play this season, going 5-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
A late addition to the ORU roster last summer, Bennett has, in many ways, been just as valuable as Gonzalez. Despite rotating between second and third base, Bennett has produced a .300-3-20 line in 51 games (47 starts). In Summit play, Bennett hit .324-1-9.
He earned a spot on the All-Summit League second team and was named All-Tournament on the strength of his two-home run, five RBI performance in ORU’s 12-0 victory over Western Illinois in the tournament opener.
MLB Draft Picks Dot 2011 Roster
Six members of the 2011 ORU roster have been previously selected in the MLB Draft:
Player Pos. Rd. Team (yr.)
Alex Gonzalez RHP 11th Baltimore (2011)
Bennett Pickar C 15th Atlanta (2010)
Brandon King OF 16th Baltimore (2011)
Kurt Giller RHP 21st Toronto (2009)
Jason Stacy RHP 46th Philadelphia (2005)
Brett Sowers INF 47th Los Angeles-NL (2006)
Bunt You Very Much
Senior OF Joey Winiecki has made a living throughout his career via the bunt base hit. Winiecki enters Summit League Tournament play with 24 bunt singles. In two seasons at ORU, Winiecki has 47 bunt base hits.
The Golden Eagles back the belief about home field advantage, posting a record of 879-235-2 (.789) since J.L. Johnson Stadium opened in 1978. Since Rob Walton became head coach in 2004, the Golden Eagles have posted a 173-25 (.874) mark at home.
Walton Named to USA Baseball Staff
USA Baseball announced the four members of the 2011 Collegiate National Team coaching staff on Thursday. Missouri’s Tim Jamieson will manage the club next summer, and he will be joined by pitching coach Rob Walton (ORU) and assistant coaches Dave Van Horn (Arkansas) and Scott Stricklin (Kent State).
Walton returns for his third stint with Team USA. In addition to his time with the 2005 club, Walton managed the 2008 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, which, in finishing an undefeated 24-0, is widely considered one of the greatest U.S. Collegiate Teams of all time. Known as one of the top pitching minds in baseball, Walton helped lead an ’08 staff that featured the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake, Mike Minor and Kyle Gibson.
ORU vs. Ranked Opponents
The Golden Eagles always face a tough non-conference schedule, and have held their own against ranked opponents. Under Rob Walton, the Golden Eagles have posted a 30-69 record in 99 contests against ranked teams, including 2-8 this year.
ORU Picked to Win Summit League... Death, Taxes Still a Certainty
After winning its record 13th straight league championship a year ago, ORU was an overwhelming choice to claim The Summit League crown in 2011 as voted on by the league’s eight head coaches.
Reigning tournament champion ORU returns three of its top four leading hitters from last season after receiving seven first-place votes and 49 points. Senior first team all-league selection Nick Baligod leads the way for the Golden Eagles after hitting .390 with a team-leading .486 on-base percentage to go along with 11 home runs and 54 RBI. Senior all-league recipients Chris Elder and Joey Winiecki also return for head coach Rob Walton. Elder batted .331 last season, while Winiecki hit .329 and stole 14 bases. On the mound, southpaw Mark Guest returns for his senior season after leading ORU with a 4.35 ERA a year ago in 23 appearances. Senior Bryce Smolen (4.41 ERA) is also back after leading the league with six complete games and a 9-3 record last season.
ORU Baseball History
The Golden Eagles have appeared in 21 NCAA Regionals, including 12 straight, since the baseball program began in 1966. ORU earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2006. ORU made its only trip to the College World Series in 1978, defeating North Carolina in the opener before losing a pair of one-run games to Arizona State and Miami. The Golden Eagles have had 10 First-Team All-America selections, 17 second-team selections and 19 third-team selections. ORU has also had eight Freshman All-America First-Team honorees, as well as four freshman honorable mention recipients. ORU boasts 16 major leaguers, including Doug Bernier, Michael Hollimon and Steve Holm, who all made their debuts in 2008. Other notable major leaguers include Keith Lockhart (former Atlanta Braves infielder), Tom Nieto (former Minnesota Twins catcher), Bob Zupcic (ex-Boston Red Sox outfielder), Todd Burns (ex-Oakland A’s reliever) and Mike Moore. In 1981, Moore was selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick by Seattle and went on to a 14-year career, winning a World Series title and appearing in the All-Star game with Oakland in 1989.