BELOIT—Beloit College’s baseball team is used to playing back-to-back weekend doubleheaders.
But Saturday could be an extra long day at The Ballpark at Strong Stadium.
The Buccaneers will host Illinois College in a best-of-three series to determine the Midwest Conference Tournament champion, starting at 10 a.m. That’s right, they could be playing a tripleheader.
However, if the “if necessary” game 3 would start later than 4:30 p.m., it will be pushed to Sunday.
Due to Midwest Conference rules, there will be no spectators allowed at the tournament. The games will be streamed online and are available by going to the Bucs website, beloitcollegeathletics.com.
Beloit (24-4, 19-3 MWC) clinched their first North Division title since 2016 by sweeping a doubleheader with the University of Chicago on Sunday.
IC had to wait even longer. The Blueboys (19-7, 16-8 MWC) defeated Monmouth in a makeup game, 10-8, on Monday to clinch at least a share of the South title. Monmouth dropped the second game of a Tuesday twinbill with Knox, 11-5, to slip to 15-9 in MWC South play and lose out on winning the title. IC ended up tying with Grinnell, but won the tiebreaker.The Blueboys’ MWC South title was their first since 1999.
The Bucs, who are 12-2 at home, take one of their best offenses ever into the tournament. While they were No. 1 in NCAA D-III statistics in slugging percentage at one time, they still rank third with a percent of .575. As a team, they’re hitting .347.
Sophomore second baseman Matt O’Leary leads the Bucs with a .425 batting average. He and teammate Brett Kiger have both smacked eight home runs. He has scored 41 runs and driven in 49 more.
Kiger, a Beloit Memorial graduate, has also had a breakout sophomore year. He is hitting .414 with 30 runs scored and 46 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .805.
Shortstop Garrison Ferone is hitting just under .400 at .397. He has 41 runs and 29 RBIs. Catcher Bronson Balholm is hitting .374 with a dozen doubles, six triples and a pair of homers. He has scored 45 runs and driven in 29.
Rounding out the lineup are center fielder Matt Crandall (.364), third baseman James Wicker (.330), first baseman Drew Freitag (.329), left fielder Nick Schmidt (.322) and right fielder Deven Irwin (.260).
Neither team has tremendous pitching statistics for the season. Beloit has a team 5.59 earned run average while IC has a team ERA of 7.88. Opponents are hitting .291 off the Bucs’ pitchers while foes are hitting .318 off IC’s pitchers.
The Bucs began solving pitching issues late in the season with some of their starters proving their best efforts down the stretch. They will rely on right-hander Thomas Kosakowski (3-0, 3.46 ERA), Kaiya Nishino (4-1, 3.41), Matthew Starr (3-0, 3.32) and Tommy Murray (2-0, 4.75). The bullpen includes Freitag (1-0, 0.00), Wicker (0-1, 0.00) and Zachary Miller (0-0, 3.12).
IC has a team batting average of .309. Bailey Reed leads the Blueboys with a .375 batting average, 10 home runs and 51 RBIs. He has a .703 slugging percentage and .521 on-base percentage. Their other top hitters are Tyler Blum (.354), Peyton Abbott (.352), Peyton Phillis (.336), Griffin King (.336) and Caleb Uselton (.330).