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Warriors slated against Blue Hawks in NSAA Tournament

By Aaron Schneider

VALLEY CITY, North Dakota – Looking to make a postseason run, the Waldorf University baseball team will take on Dickinson State University in the opening round of the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Tournament on Friday.

The Warriors (17-31) square off against the Blue Hawks (25-25) in a 12 p.m. matchup at Charlie Brown Memorial Stadium. It marks the first meeting between the two teams this season.

“For us to be successful, we can’t walk guys and give them free bases,” Waldorf coach Joe Tautges said. “We need to make contact early in the count and make plays defensively.”

The Warriors put together a .306 team batting average this season, averaging 9.3 hits per game. Waldorf aims to complement its offensive production with a strong defensive effort to shut down Dickinson State.

“The biggest thing for us is that we need to make plays on defense and score a lot of runs.” Tautges said.

Waldorf’s Michael Keeran ranks eighth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) with a team-high .447 batting average. The junior from Clear Lake also leads the Warriors in hits (67), triples (5), on-base percentage (.536) and slugging percentage (.667).

Freshman Mitchell Keeran has powered to team-highs with eight home runs, 15 doubles and 31 RBIs on the season. He also tops the team with a .575 slugging percentage.

Waldorf junior Bruce Mau owns a .360 batting average and has produced nine doubles. Freshman Garrett Gillen holds a .336 batting average and leads the team with nine stolen bases.

Junior Ryan Villarreal, sophomore Jacob Tedesco and freshman Jimmy Quirk are also batting above .300.

Trevor Bauer has played a vital role for Waldorf’s bullpen, bullpen a 3-0 record and a 2.45 earned run average. The senior from Twentynine Palms, California has recorded four saves and notched a team-high 33 strikeouts while limiting opposing hitters to a .182 average.

Michael Keeran has struck out 32 batters on the season while tallying a 4-4 record.

Junior Dave Erickson has punched out 28 batters for the Warriors, keeping opponents to a .321 batting average.

Jake Hignite leads the Blue Hawks with six homers and a .368 batting average on the season. Hignite has also produced team-highs in hits (68), RBIs (47), stolen bases (20), triples (3) and slugging percentage (.568).

Dickinson State’s Sagan Osborne has belted a team-leading 19 doubles behind a .359 batting average.

Preventing big innings is on the agenda for the Warriors as they look to keep the Blue Hawks from gaining momentum.

“They have quite a few guys that can swing it, so we will need to execute our game plan against those guys,” Tautges said. “The last thing is to stay away from big innings.”

On the mound, Dickinson State’s Tony Roberts has put together a 6-3 record while holding opponents to a .274 batting average.

Sean Getchell enters the tournament with a 3.18 ERA for the Blue Hawks. He’s racked up six saves while limiting opponents to a .224 batting average.

Waldorf earned the No. 5 seed in the tournament after finishing the regular season with a 13-11 conference record. Dickinson State claimed the No. 4 seed following a 12-10 conference mark.

Waldorf is making its first postseason appearance since 2011. The NSAA Tournament is structured into two four-team double-elimination brackets with the winner of each bracket facing off in a one-game championship. Each game is scheduled for nine innings, and all contests prior to the championship game will have a 10-run mercy rule after seven innings. The title game will not utilize a mercy rule.

Bellevue University (43-9), which is ranked No. 2 in the latest NAIA poll, finished the season with a 20-3 conference record to secure the regular-season conference crown and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. The NSAA will also be represented in the national tournament by the conference tournament champion. If Bellevue wins the NSAA Tournament, the tournament runner-up will earn an automatic bid to nationals.