Roaring past the MIAA competition

Tee Helsel and Christian Arnold bump fists after the rival game against Pitt State on April 22nd.

Kristen Stacy/The Chart

Tee Helsel and Christian Arnold bump fists after the rival game against Pitt State on April 22nd.

Forty-three games down and four to go for the Southern (33-10, 23-5 MIAA) baseball team, and as the final road series of the regular season gets under way today against Northeastern State, the Lions have only one concern.

“Our main focus is to finish strong and have some momentum into the conference tournament,” said senior Ryan Spry.

This year the Lions have set the standard, setting the tone in conference play, winning at an astounding clip. A surprise, maybe, depending on who you are, but regardless of the expectations, the Lions now stare the first MIAA regular season championship since 1992 squarely in the face.

Southern has found ways to win, plain and simple, combining success from atop the mound, where they rack up numbers in the key statistics, and at the plate, where they have found their bats filled with plastic explosives, but for this type of season to be possible, a team needs more. It needs to be diligent in all facets.

The Lions can claim that distinction, proved by statistics like the 86 walks allowed this season, 26 better than the next team, or 156 earned runs, which is the lowest in the MIAA. Say pitching is not your forte; how about 175, the number of walks Southern has drawn at the dish, 29 more than all other teams above them in overall average this year.

The bottom line is diligence, something Tim Kurkjian will tell anyone is the key to baseball. And in reality, baseball, like no other sport, has numbers to support the idea.

For the Lions it is just as true —well, that and having one of the top players in the country, such as junior Chris Hoffman, who was just named finalist for the Tino Martinez Division II Player of the Year Award.

Still, regardless of this season’s success, the Lions must avoid the ghost of seasons past. With last year marring what has been a four-year resurgence for a program ready to reap the rewards of consistency, the Lions look at this postseason as an opportunity to stake claim to the MIAA.

“It would establish this program as one of the premier programs in Division II baseball,” said senior Axel Johnson. “We have a chance to do something special this weekend and win the conference … with that, the new stadium, and a deep run in the postseason, this program would gain a huge advantage in recruiting.”

For Southern, that run has been a season in the making, and the team looks to close it out in the same fashion. The opening opportunity is today at 3 p.m.