2024 NAIA Upland Bracket Opening Round Preview

by | May 10, 2024 | Baseball, RRSN News | 0 comments

2024 Upland Bracket Opening Round Preview

 UPLAND, Ind. – The 2024 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round is slated to commence Monday, May 13, as the No. 17 Taylor baseball team (41-14) prepares to host the five-team Upland Bracket at Winterholter Field.

With their third consecutive Crossroads League Regular Season title and a CLT Tournament Championship for good measure, the Trojans earned an automatic bid to their ninth national tournament appearance in program history.

After sweeping the Opening Round in 2023, TU improved its record in opening-round games to 9-14 all-time. Unlike last season when Taylor entered national tournament play on a three-game losing skid, the team currently rides a hot stretch, winning 13 of its past 14 contests as it seeks a third NAIA World Series appearance.

In order to advance to the 2024 Avista NAIA Baseball World Series beginning May 24, TU must come out on top in a bracket that includes No. 7 Missouri Baptist (39-10-1), No. 23 MidAmerica Nazarene (34-17), RV Indiana Southeast (32-18) and Indiana Tech (32-22). Taylor begins Opening Round play facing MidAmerica Nazarene for Monday’s second game at 2:30 p.m.

Monday’s middle game between host-TU and MNU features two teams with good power that do not rely much on base stealing. Like Taylor, MidAmerica Nazarene is also coming off an Opening Round appearance in 2023. The Pioneers boast the advantage this season in slugging percentage at .562, but the Trojans score runs more efficiently behind patience at the plate that has led to an outstanding .439 on-base percentage.

Taylor’s pitching staff includes two ace-quality arms in Gabel Pentecost and Nick Crabtree, helping give TU the lowest team ERA and batting average against among the five teams competing in the Upland bracket. MNU is sure to counter with one of its top arms, Zach Trevino or Adam Gray, who have helped the Pioneers to a solid 5.35 team ERA.

The first game on Monday is set for 11 a.m. between the fourth and fifth seeds, IU Southeast and Indiana Tech.

The Grenadiers of IU Southeast serve as the home team in that contest, and they have thrived off their pitching, small ball and base-stealing. On the mound, Luke Schafer has overpowered hitters with a bracket-best 104 strikeouts to go along with a 2.73 ERA. At the plate, Mason White drives the lineup with a team-high .424 batting average, 56 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.

Meanwhile, the Warriors of Indiana Tech have shaken off a slow 2-16 start and have since gone 30-6, including winning their last 11 in a row. The overall numbers are down for Indiana Tech compared to the other four teams, but the pitching staff boasts a 100-strikeout man in Adam Besser and a productive lineup that is hitting .319 on the year.

The winner of the 11 a.m. opener on Monday plays again that evening at 6 p.m. versus top-seeded Missouri Baptist.

The seventh-ranked Spartans carry four elite power hitters – Blayne Yarger, Alex Adams, Cole Robinson and Jayden Orozco – that have helped bring about a whopping 108 home runs team-wide. MBU is not afraid to take bases either, having successfully swiped 77 bags this season, which is second among the five-team bracket. Defensively, the Spartans feature a balanced pitching rotation led by Jackson Wells that does not strike opposing batters out at a high clip, but does limit damage with a .268 batting average against.

Following Monday’s action, the Tuesday slate of games is also set for 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. eastern time. Two games are then scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 and 6 p.m., and a championship game (if necessary) is scheduled on Thursday, May 16, that features a 12 noon first pitch.

For those interested in attending the games live at Winterholter Field, tickets are available for purchase online at www.TaylorTrojans.com/tickets. Day passes are $10 for adults and $5 for students ages 18 and under, while tournament passes are $25. Tickets can also be purchased on-site with cash only.

Tickets are free for children ages six and under to all games, and for Taylor University students to all Taylor games with a valid student-ID.

For those watching from home, every game will be streamed live at no cost on the Taylor Athletics YouTube page.

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