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?
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|
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.
Players from NAIA schools taken in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft:
|2B||Cam Coursey||Georgia Gwinnett||13||392||Diamondbacks||story|
|SS||Aaron Shackelford||The Master's||14||424||Pirates||story|
|RHP||Shaine McNeely||Hope International||16||496||Yankees|
|LHP||Niall Windeler||British Columbia||19||569||Twins||story|
|RHP||Bryce Milligan||Oklahoma City||19||593||Brewers|
|RHP||Eddie Tavarez||Peru State||21||643||Brewers||story|
|RHP||Matthew Swain||Georgia Gwinnett||23||689||Twins|
|RHP||Justin Friedman||Hope International||26||770||White Sox|
|C||Anthony Lepre||The Master's||28||846||Mariners|
|CF||Elliott Cary||Oklahoma City||29||862||Tigers|
|2B||Jackie Urbaez||Saint Thomas||29||883||Brewers|
|RHP||Peyton Long||Central Methodist||30||913||Brewers||story|
|C||Dylan Shockley||Rio Grande||34||1,024||Pirates|
|LF||Willie Carter||Webber International||34||1,027||Braves|
Schedule for the first two days of the 63rd NAIA Baseball National Championship, Friday-Saturday, May 24-31, Harris Field, Lewiston, ID (all times PDT):
8:30 AM: #8 seed Indiana Tech (41-14-1) vs. #9 Bellevue (46-14)
Indiana Tech (Fort Wayne) is making their sixth trip to the Baseball National Championship. The most recent one was in 2003. They are the champions of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference. Twitter: @INTechBaseball
Rankings: #23 in coaches' poll, #7 in ISR. SoS: #20
Quality wins: 2-0 vs. Tennessee Wesleyan, 2-1 vs. Freed-Hardeman, 2-0 vs. U. of the Cumberlands
Top position players: 1B/C Glen McClain (.435, 17 HR, 54 RBI), 3B Branson Dossen (.370, 5 HR, 49 RBI), 1B/3B Jake Defries (.368, 3 HR, 42 RBI). McClain is tied for 12th in the NAIA in hitting and home runs.
Top Pitchers: RHP Tanner Perkins (5-0, 1.10 ERA), LHP Charles Dunavan (9-1, 2.60 ERA, 93 strikeouts), RHP Seth Sorensen (7-3, 2.24 ERA, 63 strikeouts), LHP Dan Shaw (2-2, 1.79 ERA, 62 strikeouts)
Coach: Kip McWilliams, 12th season
Outlook: The Warriors are happy to be here.
Bellevue (Omaha, NE) is making their 13th trip to the Baseball National Championship. The most recent one was in 2016. They are the champions of the North Star Athletic Association. Twitter: @BUBruinBaseball
Rankings: #21 in coaches' poll, #20 in ISR. SoS: #77
Quality wins: Saint Thomas, Oklahoma City, LSU-Shreveport
Top position players: SS Kory Longaker (.385, 12 HR, 57 RBI), C Travis Tanaka (.380, 3 HR, 51 RBI), 3B J.T. Patterson (.379, 24 home runs, 87 RBI). Patterson is fourth in the NAIA in home runs, and second in RBI.
Top Pitchers: LHP Jarrett Poh (9-0, 1.55 ERA, 68 strikeouts), RHP Stephen Knapp (10-2, 2.33 ERA, 51 strikeouts), RHP Colton Walker (5-2, 4.13 ERA, 60 strikeouts). Poh has the sixth-lowest ERA in the NAIA.
Coach: Duane Monlux, ninth season
Outlook: The Bruins will win a game.
Players from NAIA schools taken in the 2018 Major league Baseball draft:
|C||Elih Marrero||Saint Thomas||8||250||Red Sox||story|
|RHS||Ben Madison||Central Baptist||9||256||Giants||story|
|RHS||Shawn Dubin||Georgetown C.||13||402||Astros||story|
|C||Lane Milligan||Oklahoma City||17||520||Red Sox||story|
|RHR||Eddie Jimenez||Southeastern||18||550||Red Sox|
|RHR||Angel Reyes||Science and Arts of Oklahoma||19||555||Tigers||story|
|RHS||Stephen Yancey||Texas Wesleyan||20||600||Rays|
|3B||Mitch Robinson||British Columbia||21||637||Yankees||story|
|RHP||Gage Burland||Lewis-Clark State||22||656||Blue Jays||story|
|OF||Preston White||The Master's||24||706||Giants||story|
|RHP||Miguel Figueroa||Oklahoma City||24||732||Astros|
|RHS||Kris Jackson||Corban||28||850||Red Sox||story|
|C||Nelson Mompierre||Saint Thomas||29||860||Mets|
|LHP||Andrew Shaps||William Jessup||31||944||Dodgers||story|
|LF||Matthew Jarecki||Benedictine (KS)||37||1095||Tigers|
|RHS||Bobby Milacki||Arizona Christian||38||1151||Nationals|
|RHP||Cole Uvila||Georgia Gwinnett||40||1199||Rangers|
|RF||Andrew Warner||Columbia C.||40||1203||Cardinals|