The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

May 23, 2014

Courrier: Maybe this will be Mavericks' magic moment

Third in 2012, second last season.

It seems inevitable that the trend continues this season, and Minnesota State will win the Division II baseball championship, right?

Certainly it’s not that easy, but there are many reasons that this will be the season for the Mavericks’ first national championship in baseball.

Compared to last season’s team, which went 42-9 and was runner-up to Tampa with an 8-2 loss in the final game, the Mavericks hit the ball a little better with a more balanced lineup and more speed. Last season’s squad pitched a little better and was stronger with the glove, but scoring almost one run per game more has allowed these Mavericks to already win 45 games.

The 2013 Mavericks, led by Jason Hoppe’s incredible scoreless streak of 55 1/3 innings, had a team earned-run average of 2.78, and opponents batted just .231. This season, anchored again by Hoppe, the staff has a 3.08 ERA and .237 opponents’ batting average.

But the 2014 batters are hitting .332 and scoring 7.5 runs per game, with 83 stolen bases in 105 attempts. Last season, the Mavericks batted .292 with 6.7 runs per game, stealing 42 times in 58 attempts.

Last season, the Mavericks belted 40 homers in 51 games, compared to 34 taters in 54 games this season, with Stetson Olson cranking 13 bombs.

Catcher Nolan Johnson has been the top hitter by average on both teams, with a .359 average in 2013 and .375 this season. However, he has seven teammates on the current team that are batting over .300, while only three other Mavericks hit better than .300 last season.

All stats may take a bit of a dive this week as strikeouts and hits become tougher to get, playing against the best teams in Division II, but after 50-some games, you are who you are. Run into a hot pitcher, and things could get tough. Face a team that finds some offensive momentum, and things could go awry quickly.

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