The St. Thomas baseball team (27-16) received good news today: The Tommies will face No. 10 UW-Whitewater (32-11) in the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Whitewater, Wis.
“We played them down in Florida, and both games were super intense,” freshman catcher J.D. Dorgan said. “I could tell right away it was going to be a rivalry.“
After losing to Hamline 7-5 Sunday in the MIAC title game, the Tommies did not receive an automatic bid to the playoffs. But the team was awarded one of 15 at-large bids as a result of its strength of schedule (11th out of 350) and will compete in a six-team double-elimination regional.
“We were really lucky. After we lost up in Duluth we thought for sure we’d have to win the tournament to get in,” Dorgan said. “I think it was a little bit of reputation that got us in, and also we got hot at the right time.”
UW-Whitewater’s story is very similar to the Tommies’ story. The Warhawks received an at-large bid after losing to Oshkosh 2-1 in the WIAC conference tournament. UW-Whitewater was held to just two hits in the game.
The Warhawks led the WIAC with a .406 on-base percentage during the regular season. Seniors Daniel Putnam and Jeff Donovan led the offense. Putnam, an outfielder from Ashland, Wis., was second in the WIAC with a .438 batting average, first in hits with 74 and first in on-base percentage with a .525 average. The 6-foot-5 Donovan has been a powerhouse all season, hitting a team-high seven home runs and leading the conference with 47 RBIs and 19 doubles.
Donovan also anchors a strong pitching staff that held opponents to about three runs a game and a .260 batting average. Senior Riley Tincher and Donovan led the team with nine wins during the regular season, the second-highest victory total in the WIAC.
For the Tommies, senior Tayler Rahm also has reason to celebrate after being named MIAC Player of the Year. The Holy Angels standout batted .429 during the regular season and was in the top four in the conference in RBIs, hits and slugging percentage. Rahm becomes the eighth Tommie player in the last 14 seasons to win the award, and he joins five of his teammates on the All-MIAC teams.
Freshman catcher J.D. Dorgan was named MIAC Rookie of the Year and is the second freshman position player to make the All-MIAC team for the Tommies in the last 30 years. Senior pitcher Kris Edwards, junior pitcher Bryce Gapinski and junior second basemen Charles Bruchu also were named All-MIAC, and senior outfielder Matt McQuillan was named to the 10-player All-Defensive team for the second time.
Other teams competing in the Whitewater, Wis., regional include the College of St. Scholastica (35-5), Hamline (28-13), and No. 1 seed UW-Stevens Point (25-14).
Alex Keil contributed to this report.
Ryan Shaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.