Sean Heppner is right-hand pitcher headed for his second season with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. He is currently playing for the Kamloops NorthPaws, a team playing its inaugural season in the West Coast League.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: The British Columbia Thunderbirds made a remarkable turnaround during the last five weeks of the 2022 season, getting four quality wins at the Opening Round Tournament at Lewis-Clark State, and giving Lewis-Clark State, who eventually finished in second place nationally in the NAIA, a real scare. What explanation do you have for the turnaround?
Sean Heppner, Kamloops NorthPaws: We were a really young team. I think over half our team had never played a college baseball game before.
BB: That includes you?
SH: Yeah, including myself. So, just getting to know yourself, as you play the season, you get more comfortable and know which situations you're going to go into and getting the experience. Then, it just kind of all came together and we all kind of felt comfortable pitching and hitting and doing what we needed to to play. And we were having so much fun, which we weren't having for a long time.
BB: How many of those guys are going to be back next year?
SH: We actually only lost three guys.
BB: And you're coming back?
LF Jared Sucro (Cairn), a Kamloops native, hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Kamloops NorthPaws an 8-7 win over the Edmonton Riverhawks in the first-ever game for both West Coast League teams.
SS Mike Fitzsimmons (British Columbia) led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, then stole second base. CF Ty Siffermann (Grand Canyon) struck out. Fitzsimmons moved to third on a passed ball, then scored on the hit by Sucro.
Nolan Austin (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M) had a big night for the NorthPaws. He moved from third base to the mound at the start of the eighth inning, replacing another pitcher who was ruled ineligible because he wasn’t listed on the official roster. He got the win, retired six of the seven batters he faced, struck out one, and walked one. He also went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk at the plate.
Another NorthPaw with a big night was Tyrelle Chadwick (Illinois State). He was the starting pitcher. He was relieved after only 2 1/3 innings. He allowed only one hit, but walked six batters, and threw a wild pitch. However, he remained in the game as the designated hitter, then replaced Austin at third base. He finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
The NorthPaws outhit the Riverhawks 11 to five, but the Riverhawks led most of the game, due not only to the large number of walks (relievers RHP Sean Heppner [British Columbia] and RHP Carter Harbut [Fraser Valley] walked three and four, respectively), but also an expensive error and a passed ball. The Riverhawks took the early lead on a home run by 3B Brad Jolley (Park-Gilbert) in the top of the second, the first-ever home run for the Riverhawks. The NorthPaws answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, with Chadwick scoring when 2B Angus Stayte (Morehead State) reached on an error, and Austin scoring on a passed ball.
Schedule for the first two days of the 65th NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday-Saturday, May 27-June 3, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):
Friday, 8:30 AM: #8 seed Georgia Gwinnett (45-14) vs. #9 MidAmerica Nazarene (39-16)
Georgia Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, GA) is making their fifth trip to Lewiston. They are the defending champions. They won the Continental Athletic Conference tournament. Twitter: @GGC_Baseball
Rankings:#10 in coaches' poll, #30 in Boyd Nation's Iterative Strength Rating. Strength of Schedule: #94 (lowest in tournament)
Quality wins: 3-1 vs. Northwestern Ohio, U. of the Cumberlands, 1-1 vs. Webber International
Top position players: IF Braxton Megular (.394, 50 RBI), 3B Jake Defries (.324, 47 RBI), C Austin Bates (.377, 44 RBI), OF Livingston Morris (.327, 18 HR, 65 RBI), OF Blaze O'Saben (.372, 31 RBI), DH J.D. Stubbs (.340, 55 RBI)
Top pitchers: RHP Kevin Kyle (6-0, 1.41 ERA, 64 K), LHP Tyler Clayton (5-1, 1.99 ERA, 66 K), RHP Rob Hamby (8-2, 2.75 ERA, 80 K), RHP Gavin Heltemes (7-1, 3.31 ERA, 84 K)
Coach: Jeremy Sheetinger, third season
Outlook: The Grizzlies won't be repeat champions.
MidAmerica Nazarene (Olathe, KS) is making their first appearance in the Baseball National Championship. They finished first on the South Division of the Heart of America Conference. Twitter: @mnusports
Rankings: Unranked in coaches' poll, #15 in ISR. SoS: #28
Quality wins: 4-3 vs. Central Methodist, Freed-Hardeman, 2-0 vs. Oklahoma City
Top position players: OF Josh Torrance (.379, 7 HR, 40 RBI), 1B/RHP Noah Castillo (.375, 7 HR, 46 RBI, and 7-1, 6.71 ERA, 63 K on the mound), SS Brycen Sherwood (.339, 11 HR, 40 RBI), C Joshuan Sandoval (.307, 15 HR, 50 RBI), 3B Dionathan Cornett (.321, 9 HR, 50 RBI)
Top pitchers: RHP Nathan Torres (1-0, 0.74 ERA, 43 K, 14 saves), RHP Zach Trevino (10-3, 3.88 ERA, 108 K), LHP Kristian Hurtado (7-3, 4.61 ERA, 61 K), RHP Eric Navarette (5-5, 5.42 ERA, 80 K)
Coach: Ryan Thompson, 16th season
Outlook: Happy to be here.
Players from NAIA schools taken in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft:
|RHP||Garrett Hawkins||British Columbia||9||280||Padres||story|
|C||Kenny Piper||Columbia C.||18||551||Rays|
The Dominican Republic (4-0 in the tournament) defeated Venezuela (2-2) 8-5 at the Estadio de Béisbol Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, Mexico. The Dominican Republic took the sixth and final spot in the Tokyo Olympics with a six-run fourth inning.
Venezuela opened the scoring in the top of the second inning with a three-run “no doubt” home run in the top of the second inning by RF Diego Rincones (Giants organization).
Venezuela loaded the bases with two out in the top of the third inning. DR relieved starter RHP Radhamés Liz (Leones de Yucatán) with RHP Jhan Mariñez, and he got a fly out to leave the bases loaded.
The bottom of the third started with a double play. Venezuela starter LHP Yapson Gomez (Tigres de Quintana Roo) walked CF Emilio Bonifacio, and was replaced by RHP Eduardo Paredes. Paredes was greeted with a two-run home run by DH Melky Cabrera, and Venezuela led 3-2 after three innings.
DR took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. The inning started with singles by 1B Juan Francisco and LF Johan Mieses (Red Sox organization). Francisco scored on a double by 3B Diego Goris (Aguilas Cibaenas). SS Ramón Torres then hit a popup that was mishandled by SS Engelb Vielma (Navigantes de Magallanes), and Mieses scored giving DR a 4-3 lead. The play was reviewed for possible baserunner interference, but Torres was given the hit. C Charlie Valerio (Sioux Falls Canaries) hit an RBI double. The play at second was close, but it was reviewed, and Valerio was ruled safe. 5-3 DR.
Venezuela (2-1 in the tournament) defeated the Netherlands (0-3) 10-0 (seven innings) at the Estadio de Béisbol Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, Mexico. RHP Henry Centeno (Rieleros de Aguascalientes) pitched a two-hit shutout. Venezuela will play the Dominican Republic on Saturday for the sixth and final spot in the Tokyo Olympics.
Venezuela opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. 1B Hernán Pérez (Brewers organization) hit a double, then came home on a single by LF Alexander Palma (Brewers organization). Palma hit an RBI single in the bottom of third inning, followed by an RBI single by 3B Luis Sardiñas (Mariachis de Guadalajara), and a three-run home run by Robinson Chirinos (Yankees organization). That chased Dutch starter RHP Jair Jurrjens (Guerreros de Oaxaca), who got the loss. Venezuela led 6-0 after three innings.
The next three innings were scoreless, although not uneventful. In the top of the fifth, a pitch grazed the batter, DH Yurendell de Caster, then hit a finger of plate umpire Edgar Huerta. Huerta had to leave the game, and was replaced by Ramiro Alfaro. When play resumed, SS John Polonius (Rotterdam Curaçao Neptunus) got the Netherlands' first hit, and it was a broken bat infield single. The next batter, C Ricardo Dashenko (Rotterdam Curaçao Neptunus) was injured when he got piece of a pitch, and the ball hit his left ankle. He was unable to continue, and was replaced at the plate by Sicnarf Loopstok, who hit into double play.
The Dominican Republic (2-0 in the tournament) defeated the Netherlands (0-2) 4-3 at the Estadio de Béisbol Hermanos Serdan in Puebla, Mexico. The Netherlands will play an elimination game against Venezuela on Friday, and the Dominican Republic will play the winner on Saturday for the sixth and final spot in the Tokyo Olympics.
After two high-scoring games in this tournament, this one was a pitching duel until the eighth inning, and mostly well played. The starters were Tom de Blok for the Netherlands, and Osvaldo Bidó (Pirates organization) for DR. Bidó was relieved by Marcos Diplán (Orioles organization) in the fifth inning, but de Blok had a shutout going for nearly six innings. The only threat by either team was in the bottom of the fifth, when SS Ramon Torres hit a leadoff double, and went to third on a ground out. However, he was stranded when de Blok recorded a big strikeout of DH Melky Cabrera to end the inning.
De Blok's shutout ended with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, when LF Johan Mieses (Red Sox organization) hit a solo home run. The next batter, 3B Diego Goris, hit a double, and de Blok was relieved by Mike Groen (Amsterdam Pirates). de Blok's numbers were 5 2/3 innings pitched, two runs on five hits, six strikeouts, and two walks.
The Bravos de León (0-3) were defeated by the Algodoneros (Cotton Farmers) de Unión Laguna (3-0) at Estadio Domingo Santana in León on May 23.
3B Carlos Rivero hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to give the Algodoneros a sweep of the season-opening series.
The game was scoreless for the first four innings. In the bottom of the third, the Bravos tried a hit-and-run with SS Gilberto Carrera on first and CF Tony Campana batting. Campana failed to make contact, and Carrera was an easy out at second base. Carrera ended up hitting a single, and was balked to second base, but was stranded there. In the bottom of the fourth, LF Anthony Giansanti was robbed on a base hit by a good grab by Rivero, ending the inning.
The Algodoneros opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly by C Alejandro Flores in the top of the fifth. (The runner on third, 2B Ciro Norzagaray, got there because of a bad throw to second base.) The Bravos answered with a solo home run by DH Frank Diaz in the bottom of the fifth. His home run actually bounced off the top of the fence, and a review determined that it was a home run.
The Algodoneros took the lead for good with Rivero's home run. The Bravos made it a one-run game with a two-run home run by 1B Felix Perez in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out. The Bravos then loaded the bases with consecutive singles by Giansanti and Diaz, and a bunt single by C Alfredo Hurtado. This was the Bravos' big chance; bases loaded, nobody out, and trailing only by a run. The Algodoneros made a pitching change, bringing in RHP Jordan Suarez. The Bravos sent in a pinch-hitter, Daniel Cornejo. Cornejo hit a ground ball, and Giansanti was thrown out at the plate. Then Carrera hit into a double play to end the inning, and the Bravos didn't threaten the rest of the way.
Schedule for the first two days of the 64th NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday-Saturday, May 28-June 4, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):
8:30 AM: #8Keiser(36-16) vs. #9LSU-Shreveport (44-14)
Keiser (West Palm Beach, FL) is making their second trip to the Baseball National Championship. The first one was in 2017, and they went 1-2. Twitter: @KeiserBaseball
Rankings: #17 in coaches' poll, #9 in Boyd Nation's ISR. Strength of Schedule: #10
Quality wins: 3-0 vs. South Carolina-Beaufort, 3-3 vs. Saint Thomas, 2-0 vs. Oklahoma City
Top position players: 3B Tim Bouchard (.403, 16 HR, 67 RBI), OF Matthew Catalfo (.389, 7 HR, 62 RBI), OF Ben McConnell (.356, 6 HR, 40 RBI), SS Mason Dineson (.330, 10 HR, 53 RBI), C Zach Mazur (.253, 14 HR, 53 RBI)
Top Pitchers: RHP Pablo Arevalo (9-3, 1.38 ERA, 114 K), RHP James Reynolds (7-3, 3.65 ERA, 57 K), RHP Deykel Reyes (8-1, 5.52 ERA, 72 K). Arevalo's 1.38 ERA is third-best in the NAIA. He has pitched 117 innings, which is the most in the NAIA.
Coach: Brook Fordyce, fourth season
Outlook: The Seahawks are not at the same level as the top four teams in this tournament.
Louisiana State-Shreveport is making their fourth trip to the Baseball National Championship. The most recent one was 2012, and they finished third. Twitter: @LSUS_Baseball
Rankings: #25 in coaches' poll, #11 in ISR. SoS: #24
Quality wins: Central Methodist, 2-2 vs. Oklahoma City, Mobile, 2-0 vs. Point Park
Top position players: 3B Payton Robertson (.417, 7 HR, 56 RBI), OF Kody Kolb (.408, 45 RBI), DH Taylor Fajardo (.345, 15 HR, 43 RBI)
Top Pitchers: RHP Trent Sholders (6-1, 3.04 ERA, 30 K), LHP Josh Fortenberry (8-2, 3.23 ERA, 63 K), RHP Sebastian Selway (6-3, 3.36 ERA, 86 K), RHP Kevin Miranda (6-3, 5.30 ERA, 70 K), RHP Luisdiego Quintana (4-3, 5.12 ERA, 70 K)
Coach: Brad Neffendorf, second season
Outlook: Either the Pilots or the Seahawks will get a win.