Pages Navigation Menu

Delivering News From The Source

Warriors target NSAA Tournament this season

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – The Waldorf College baseball team enters the 2016 season possessing the ability to do damage in the batter’s box.

“I feel our biggest strength this year is going to be swinging the bats,” Waldorf coach Joe Tautges said. “We have a number of guys who have a plan when they get in the box and understand the game well enough to know what type of hitters they are to be successful.”

In addition to solid hitting, the Warriors have shown cohesiveness and has Tautges excited about his second year as head coach.

“I think our team chemistry is the best it has been since I have been coaching here and I think that has a big part in having a successful season,” said Tautges, who has served on Waldorf’s coaching staff the past five years.

Ryan Villarreal returns as the top hitter from last season. The junior third baseman and left fielder from Riverside, Calif. sported a .286 batting average while hitting two home runs and knocking in 15 runs. Five of Villarreal’s 24 hits were doubles.

Jacob Tedesco is coming off a promising freshman year. Tedesco, a sophomore infielder from Cincinnati, batted .275 and was third on the team with 33 hits. He finished the season with 10 RBIs.

Junior Tony Manna turned in a .257 batting average during the 2015 campaign and junior Kellan Mick posted a .254 batting average while collecting nine doubles.

Mitchell Keeran, a freshman outfielder, was a three-time all-state selection at Clear Lake High School and led the Lions to two state championships. He recorded a .387 batting average while providing four homers and 55 RBIs last season. Mitchell Keeran tied for first on Clear Lake’s team with 48 hits, which included a team-high 15 doubles.

“I think we have multiple guys that will make impacts this year, but I expect Mitchell [Keeran] to do special things,” Tautges said. “He knows the strike zone very well and uses the whole field. He will be in the heart of our order.”

Seniors Ryan McCabe, Elvin Nunez, junior Dean Mick and sophomore Eric Mallo return for Waldorf. Juniors Bruce Mau, sophomores Austin Robbins, Jordan Jewell, freshmen Will Ballard, Jimmy Quirk, Tim Pasiuk and Garrett Gillen are also in the mix.

“The biggest thing for us is the guys need to be confident in themselves and their abilities,” Tautges said. “A lot of guys are going to have opportunities. They just need to show us they can get the job done.”

Junior Michael Keeran notched 32 strikeouts in 57 and one-third innings of work for the Warriors last season. Senior Trevor Bauer, junior Dave Erickson, sophomore Adam Kovash, Dean Mick and Manna are returning members of Waldorf’s rotation while freshman Michael Miller is a newcomer.

Last year marked the final season in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) for the Warriors, who ended the 2015 campaign with a 13-30 record and 4-20 conference mark. They aim to improve on last year’s finish as they open the season with four games this weekend at Oklahoma City.

Waldorf faces Mid-America Christian University (2-6) in a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and takes on the Evangels once again on Saturday at 10 a.m. Mid-America Christian is coming off a 20-26-1 record last season.

The Warriors conclude the weekend road trip against Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College (1-16) at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. With the Saints and Evangels already having several games under their belts, Tautges anticipates both teams to be tough outs.

“Both teams will be a good challenge for us, not only because they are good teams but also because it’s our first time outside this spring,” Tautges said. “I know our guys will be excited to finally get outside and I know they will compete.”

Waldorf begins its first season in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA). Former MCAC foe Bellevue University (2-1) is ranked No. 12 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll and was selected as the favorite to win the NSAA championship in the preseason coaches’ poll. The Bruins won the 2015 MCAC Tournament and came within a game of reaching the Avista-NAIA World Series with 46-15 record.

The University of Jamestown (8-0) is receiving votes in the national poll and won last year’s NSAA regular-season title. Mayville State University (8-2) captured the NSAA Tournament last season and advanced to the opening round of the national tournament.

Waldorf begins the NSAA season March 25-26, playing host to Valley City State University (3-7) in a four-game series. The Warriors know that every conference series will present a challenge.

“The conference as a whole is going to be tough and no one will lay an egg when you play them,” Tautges said. “For us to compete at the top of the conference, it’s going to take consistency from everyone. We will have to win three of four games at home and split on the road if we are going to have a chance, which is not easy to do in four-game series.”

March 16 marks Waldorf’s first home series, which is a 4 p.m. nonconference doubleheader against Mount Mercy University (3-1).

The season schedule for the Warriors also features an eight-game spring break trip to the Tucson Invitational, held March 7-11 at Tucson, Arizona.

Like every year, reaching the NSAA Tournament is the No. 1 goal for Waldorf. The top eight teams in the league qualify for the tournament, set for May 6-10 at two different sites in Valley City, North Dakota and Jamestown, North Dakota. Advancing to the postseason will require an all-out effort each and every time the Warriors step on the field.

“The postseason feeling is special and it really doesn’t matter what seed you are. You just want the opportunity and you just never know,” Tautges said. “You just need to peak at the right time. To make this happen, we just need to play one pitch at a time and stay focused.”