On Wednesday, May 3, the College of the Ozarks Bobcats finish up their final exams and head to Lawrenceville, Georgia to compete in the A.I.I. Conference tournament. The five qualifiers, in order of seeding for this year’s event, feature Georgia Gwinnett (35-19), Talladega-Ala. (34-20), Edward Waters-Fla. (33-22), College of the Ozarks (29-19), and Fisher College-Mass. (26-23).
The Bobcats have overcome a number of obstacles this season to reach their goal of advancing to the conference tournament, including the loss of several pitchers and some injuries.
Bobcat starting pitchers Alex Stephens (9-4), Collan Thrasher (8-5), Wyatt Saltarelli (5-5), and Jansen McQuerter (4-2) have stepped up to the challenge and tossed an impressive 19 complete wins to date, certainly minimizing stress on the Cats’ bullpen. Stephens is currently ranked in the NAIA DI Top 25 at #15 in wins (9) and #24 in innings pitched per game (6.429). He also ranks #26 in walks allowed per 9 innings (1.50). Thrasher is leading the Bobcats in ERA with a 3.42 and has posted 61 strikeouts.
Alongside great pitching, the Bobcat lineup has featured numerous leaders at the plate throughout the season providing the Cats with the needed spark to win a ballgame. Senior Jesse Fisher holds a team-leading .351 average, pounding out 39 hits in 40 games played. Sophomore Dylan Heitz has tallied 33 RBI, stolen a team-high 13 bases, and added 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 homers. Jacob Karlson, the junior shortstop, has a .500 slugging percentage and leads in runs scored (40), hits (52), and is tied with Heitz in long-balls with 5 home runs. Senior outfielder J.D. Chadwell has been a game-changer on many occasions, with a .518 slugging percentage that includes 11 doubles and 4 homeruns. Also key is the return of J.D. Payne to the lineup from an injury that had him sidelined for 7 weeks. On the season, Payne is hitting .341, but in the two weeks since his return, Payne’s bat has been hot, hitting at a .402 clip.
With a productive 29-19 regular season under their belts, the Bobcats are eager to take their place as the #4 seed and face Fisher College from Boston on Saturday, May 6, at 10 a.m. central time. With a win, the Bobcats would face #1 seeded Georgia Gwinnett at 6 p.m. Saturday evening. Should they lose to Fisher, the Cats will move to the loser’s bracket and play on Sunday at 10 a.m.
For more information on the tournament and to access a link for live game coverage, go to: http://www.aiisports.com/article/1749.php.