Joey Long, Saint John's

Belvidere, Ill. / Rockford Boylan
Week of: 2012-05-14

In the postseason, every successful team usually leans on a good bullpen and a reliable closer to come through in big spots. That was the case for Saint John's this weekend as it claimed the 2012 MIAC Baseball Playoff championship, with Joey Long (Belividere, Ill./Rockford Boylan) giving the Johnnies a near-perfect performance out of the pen. The SJU closer allowed just one hit and one walk in three appearances (4.0 innings) without allowing a run, striking out three and holding opposing hitters to a batting average of .077. For his postseason performance, Long has been named the final MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week for the 2012 season.

In actuality, Long didn't really "come out of the bullpen" for SJU, as he is also the team's starting second baseman. It was from that spot that he moved to the mound for perhaps his biggest outing of the weekend. Long was summoned from second with two on and no outs in the eighth inning of the final game of the championship, and he proceeded to maneuver out of it brilliantly, working two scoreless innings, allowing just one walk and striking out one to preserve the Johnnies' championship win. He also threw a perfect inning against Bethel Friday and allowed his only hit of the weekend while striking out one as he earned the save in Saturday's 4-2 win over Saint Mary's. This season, Long is 1-0 with 10 saves in 19 appearances this spring. The SJU career saves leader has a 2.22 ERA.

With the tournament title, Saint John's improved to 29-14 this season, and added the MIAC Playoff Championship to its second-place regular-season finish. The postseason crown also gave SJU the MIAC's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament. The Johnnies were assigned to a six-team regional in McMinniville, Ore., hosted by Linfield. SJU is the No. 6 seed, and will join No. 1 Concorida-Texas, No. 2 Trinity, No. 3 Whitworth, No. 4 La Verne and No. 5 Coe in the double-elimination regional.
 

Matt Rowley, Bethel

Minnetonka, Minn. / Hopkins
Week of: 2012-05-08

Bethel emerged from a crowded race for the final two MIAC Baseball Playoff spots at the top of the pack to grab the tournament's No. 3 seed thanks to a 3-1 record in the final week of conference play. Left-handed pitcher Matt Rowley (Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins) played a huge part in the clutch wins, as he threw 10 shutout innings in two of the three wins, allowing just six hits and two walks against 10 strikeouts. For his performance, Rowley has been named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

Rowley's week starting with a surprise relief appearance out of necessity, as Bethel and Carleton battled Wednesday for 13 innings. The junior entered in the ninth, and kept the Royals' hopes alive for a win with four sparkling innings of relief, allowing just two hits and a walk with two strikeouts in a game Bethel eventually won 4-3. He also helped the Royals' score a crucial sweep of Concordia - another team in contention for the postseason - Monday by throwing six scoreless innings in game two, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out eight Cobber hitters. This season, Rowley has been stingy against MIAC opponents with an ERA of 1.91 in conference play to go along with a 33-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The versatile Bethel star is also hitting .493 with 18 RBI and 18 runs scored against conference foes.

Thanks to its three wins last week, Bethel reached the 20-win plateau at 20-18 overall, and its 11-9 MIAC record was good for third place in the final conference standings and the Playoffs' No. 3 seed. The Royals open the 2012 MIAC Baseball Playoffs with a first-round game against second-seeded Saint John's Friday at Veteran's Field in Minnetonka at 7 p.m. Bethel will play again Saturday in the double elimination tournament, at 11 a.m. if it loses against the Johnnies, or at 2 p.m. if it wins. The tournament runs through Sunday afternoon.

Teddy VanRanst, Saint Mary's

St. Paul, Minn. / Highland Park
Week of: 2012-04-30

The Saint Mary's baseball team turned in one of its best weeks of the season, going 3-1 against a pair of good MIAC opponents, with starting pitcher Teddy VanRanst (St. Paul, Minn./Highland Park) delivering the team's top highlight. VanRanst flirted with perfection in a complete-game, two-hit shutout of then-third place Augsburg Sunday to give the Cardinals a 2-0 victory in the pitcher's duel and start a big sweep of the Auggies. For his performance, VanRanst has been named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

VanRanst was brilliant against Augsburg Sunday, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning. The Auggies managed to break up his no-hit bid with a pair of hits in that inning, but VanRanst kept them off the scoreboard and closed out the game with two more zeros. The SMU starter struck out four and walked just one in the game, which was his first career shutout. The lefty lowered his ERA to 3.06 with his team-leading fourth complete game. He also leads SMU in innings pitched (53.0) and had gone four or more innings in each of his nine starts in 2012.Van Ranst is 5-4, and tied for sixth in the MIAC in wins and complete games.

The three wins helped Saint Mary's even their conference record at 8-8 and improve to 19-16 overall. The Cardinals are now in a tie with Bethel for fourth place and are in the thick of a heated race for a spot in the four-team MIAC Playoff field. SMU closes the regular season this week with a pair of MIAC doubleheaders. Wednesday it travels to Hamline with first pitch set for 2:30 p.m. and Saturday the Cardinals host Carleton for Parents and Senior Day with a 1 p.m. start time.

Zach Frappier, Concordia

Fargo, N.D. / Oak Grove
Week of: 2012-04-23

The Concordia baseball team needed to fare well against a tough Macalester team Saturday to get back in postseason contention, so it handed the ball to starter Zach Frappier (Fargo, N.D./Oak Grove). The senior lefty was up to the task, pitching a three-hit shutout gem in a big 4-0 victory for the Cobbers. For his performance, Frappier was named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

Frappier's gem included all seven innings of work, with just three hits allowed and three strikeouts. He didn't walk any Macalester hitters in the win, and just one runner reached via error. None of the four Scots to reach advanced past second base, and Frappier enjoyed three 1-2-3 innings. It was the first time Macalester had been shut out in 2012, and just the second time the Scots were blanked in the past two seasons. With the win, the Cobber southpaw improved to 3-5 with a very good 2.25 ERA this season. He has 24 strikeouts against just 12 walks in 48.0 innings of work. His ERA is fourth-best in the MIAC this season, with six complete games in eight starts.

The four wins last week helped Concordia get back to even with a 16-14 overall record and a 7-7 mark in conference play. Currently, the Cobbers are tied for fifth place, just one spot out of the MIAC playoffs at this point. Concordia will try to continue its playoff push with six games on the schedule this week. Tuesday, the Cobbers host Dakota Wesleyan in a nonconference doubleheader at 2:30 p.m. and Wednesday they travel to Mayville State for another twin bill outside the league. Saturday, Concordia hosts Hamline for a key 1 p.m. MIAC series.

Dylan Thomas, St. Thomas

Lakeville, Minn. / North
Week of: 2012-04-16

The St. Thomas baseball team continued its terrific season and impressive winning streak last week  thanks to continued excellence on the mound. In its four wins, St. Thomas hurlers allowed just four runs, with the most impressive performance courtesy of junior Dylan Thomas (Lakeville, Minn./North). The right-handed starter threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout against rival Saint John's to set the tone for UST's great week on the mound. For his performance, Thomas has been named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

 

Thomas came up with a big pitching performance when St. Thomas needed it in the 3-0 win over the Johnnies. The Tommie starter took a perfect game into the fifth and a no-hitter into the sixth and faced just 23 hitters in the complete-game shutout. Thomas allowed one hit, hit one batter and struck out 11 with no walks while throwing a first-pitch strike to 22 of the 23 batters he faced. The pitcher's duel was scoreless into the bottom of the fifth inning. This season, Thomas is 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA. He leads the MIAC and is among the nation's leaders in strikeouts per nine innings (12.0) with 48 strikeouts against just nine walks in 36 innings of work.

 

St. Thomas - now ranked fifth in Division III - pushed its impressive winning streak to 13 in a row with the four wins last week. Now the Tommies are 22-4 overall and a perfect 10-0 atop the MIAC standings. UST has a big week ahead, hosting Macalester for a MIAC doubleheader Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. The Tommies and Scots shared the conference regular season title a year ago. UST will have the weekend off before facing Bethany Lutheran next Monday and returning to conference play next Tuesday.

Buddy Flaherty, Bethel

Victoria, Minn. / Southwest Christian
Week of: 2012-04-09

A good bullpen is essential for baseball success at any level, and Bethel went 4-1 last week - 3-1 against MIAC opponents - with the bullpen playing a big role in the wins. Leading the relief corps was senior closer Buddy Flaherty (Victoria, Minn./Southwest Christian), who had a hand in three of the four wins. Flaherty nailed down two saves - including 3.1 hitless innings in a 5-3 win over St. Olaf - and he received the win in his other outing with a perfect 0.00 ERA over the course of the week. For his performance, Flaherty has been named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

Flaherty started the week by closing a 10-8 nonconference win against North Central on Tuesday with two strikeouts and just one hit allowed to earn the save. He also worked a scoreless eighth inning to earn a win over Hamline Wednesday as Bethel claimed a 4-3 walk-off win. Flaherty saved his best performance for last, striking out three Oles with no hits and no walks in 3.1 innings for his second save of the week Saturday. Thus far in 2012, Flaherty leads the MIAC with six saves and 12 appearances, and he has a miniscule 1.00 ERA in 18 innings of work to establish himself as one of the league's top relievers.

With Flaherty consistently closing the door, Bethel continues to be one of the MIAC's success stories in the early going with a 14-7 record and a 5-1 MIAC mark, as the Royals currently sit alone in third place. Bethel can continue to establish itself as a contender with a big week of conference games. Wednesday, the Royals travel across the metro to face defending conference co-champion Macalester in a doubleheader at 2:30 p.m., and Saturday Bethel travels to Collegeville to face one of the teams its chasing in the standings as it squares off with Saint John's at 1 p.m.

Ryan Mestnik, Augsburg

Prior Lake, Minn. / Prior Lake
Week of: 2012-04-02

The Augsburg baseball team is off to a terrific start this season behind a pitching staff that is both very young, and very good. Leading the way in a pair of wins this week was freshman Ryan Mestnik (Prior Lake, Minn.), earning two wins with eight scoreless innings of work to add a few more sparking stat lines to his tremendous rookie season. Mestnik only allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four this week, including a complete-game shutout in his first career MIAC start. For his performance, Mestnik has been named the MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week.

 

Mestnik's week started with one perfect inning and a win in a 5-1 nonconference victory over Viterbo Wednesday.  He struck out one and didn't allow a winner as the Auggies used 14 pitchers for one inning apiece to score the nonconference sweep. He was stellar again Saturday, throwing a three-hit, complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win over Gustavus to earn a split of the doubleheader in his conference debut. Mestnik struck out three and walked just one to add another highlight to his outstanding season thus far. The Auggie rookie right-hander is now 6-0 with ERA of 0.77. In 35 innings of work, he's allowed just 18 hits and three runs with 16 strikeouts and just six walks. He has three complete-game shutouts in his first seven collegiate starts.

 

Augsburg's 3-1 record last week helped the team continue its hot start with a 15-5 overall record and a 1-1 mark to start conference play. Augsburg will learn a lot about its MIAC title hopes this week, as it takes on both of last year's conference co-champions in league doubleheaders. Wednesday, the Auggies host St. Thomas at Parade Stadium at 2:30 p.m., and they're home again Saturday to face Macalester with first pitch set for 1 p.m.

Steve Maher, St. Thomas

Burnsville, Minn. / Holy Angels
Week of: 2012-03-26

The University of St. Thomas baseball team is off to a hot start in 2012, thanks largely to a new ace that has emerged over the season's opening weeks. Sophomore hurler Steve Maher (Burnsville, Minn./Holy Angels) has been dominant thus far, winning all five starts and putting up stellar numbers across the board against some good nonconference competition. For his strong start to the season, Maher has been named the first MIAC Baseball Pitcher-of-the-Week for the 2012 season.

 

Maher's 5-0 record features wins against St. Scholastica, UW-Whitewater, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Steven Point and the University of Chicago. Thus far, he has a miniscule 1.11 ERA in 32.1 innings of work, with better than a 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and almost a strikeout per inning. Opposing hitters have mustered just a .188 average against Maher to this point, and he has 31 strikeouts and just five walks. Maher anchors an excellent overall pitching staff that has a combined 2.45 ERA and a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

St. Thomas - which shared the MIAC regular season title a year ago and earned a bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament - is off to a 12-4 start this year behind Maher and his fellow pitchers, and the Tommies are ranked in the top 20 nationally in two different Division III polls. This week, UST opens conference play with a 7 p.m. doubleheader against Hamline in the Metrodome Saturday.