The St. Thomas baseball team hopes to capture its second national championship in four years. The Tommies face the Captains in a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 25. (Hayley Schnell/TommieMedia)
The No. 4-ranked St. Thomas baseball team leaves Wednesday, May 23, for the NCAA Division III championship tournament in Appleton, Wis.
St. Thomas (38-8) will face Christopher Newport University (Va.) in a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 25. The Captains (34-8) are the South Region champions. After losing its first game in regionals, the team rallied and won four consecutive games to advance to the NCAA championships.
St. Thomas senior pitcher Bryce Gapinski will get the start against Christopher Newport. In 44 career starts, Gapinski is 28-5, with a 2.14 ERA. Gapinski’s 28 wins rank second in conference history, just two wins shy of former Tommie Matt Schuld’s 30 career wins.
In 11 career postseason appearances, Gapinski is 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 18 earned runs in 77 innings.
While Gapinski said he’s “stoked” to start the Tommies’ first world series game, he has to keep his emotions in check.
“I have to keep reminding myself that it’s just like any other game. I have to go through my same routines,” Gapinski said.
Christopher Newport’s standout player is junior pitcher Greg Goldsmith. In 11 starts, Goldsmith is 6-2 and leads his team with an 2.41 ERA, holding opponents to a .214 batting average. He was the only captain named to the D3baseball.com All-South region first team.
In comparison, Gapinski is 9-0 with an 1.51 ERA, sophomore Steve Maher is 12-1 with a 2.10 ERA, and junior Dylan Thomas is 7-2 with a 2.42 ERA.
Thomas said he doesn’t think much of his opposing pitchers’ accomplishments.
“We aren’t afraid or worried about him,” Thomas said. “He’s just another guy throwing to us.”
If the Tommies win their first game, they could face Marietta College (Ohio). The Pioneers (42-7) have been ranked first in the nation for the majority of the season. The team won the Mideast Regional, which was the 22nd time Marietta won a regional tournament — a Division III record.
“We just have to think of it as another game. Rankings don’t mean anything in this round,” Thomas said.
St. Thomas is no stranger to the NCAA championship tournament. The Tommies won national titles in 2001 and 2009 and took second place in 1999 and 2000. Their all-time NCAA record is 56-34.
Three Tommies played on the 2009 national championship team: Gapinski, senior pitcher John Licht and senior first baseman John Means.
Gapinski said winning the national championship has been the “ultimate goal” all season, but it would be especially rewarding for the group of seniors to end their careers on top.
“We know what it takes to win the whole thing and hopefully we’re fortunate enough to put a string of good games together and end this season the best way possible,” Gapinski said.
Hayley Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.