Baseball defies odds in 2019 as postseason looms

Baseball defies odds in 2019 as postseason looms

MITCHELL, S.D. – After being selected 10th in the Great Plains Athletic Conference pre-season polls and fighting weather and schedule challenges, the Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team has overcome the odds to finish in fourth place in the conference and clinch a spot in the GPAC Postseason Tournament for the seventh time in eight years.

 The Tigers struggled in the early going of the season. DWU began the season 1-7, playing against NCAA Division II opponent University of Minnesota-Crookston in Joplin, Mo., while also participating in the annual Tucson Invitational.

 After returning home from the desert, the Tigers began GPAC play against in-state rival Mount Marty College in a four-game set. After dropping the first two games, DWU responded with two wins the following day to split the series with the Lancers. The Tigers then were forced to play their home-opener in Sioux Falls, S.D., because of weather. DWU picked up a crucial series sweep against Dordt College to move their GPAC record to 4-2.

 Following a pair of series against the top two teams in the GPAC, the Tigers rattled off seven wins in eight games, including series sweeps against Briar Cliff University and Hastings College to push them into the middle of the GPAC race. DWU finished the season splitting series with Doane University, Midland University and Morningside College to finish the regular season at 22-21 overall and 16-12 in the GPAC.

 The Tigers have seen great performances this season both on the mound and in the batter's box. Dominique Boerger (Milbank, S.D.) has been the ace for DWU all season long. The junior currently ranks ninth in NAIA baseball in total runs allowed at 16. Boerger also leads the conference in ERA at 1.83 and has pitched 68.2 innings with a record of 5-1 and 72 strikeouts this season.

 Drew DeMers (Winner, S.D.) had a breakout season for Dakota Wesleyan. DeMers is hitting .376 with 53 hits and 30 runs batted in. The sophomore is fourth in batting average in the GPAC and at one time led the conference in batting average.

 Gunnar Johnson (Gresham, Ore.) has been a steady piece for the pitching staff in his second year with the program. Johnson is right behind Boerger in the ERA department for the conference as the senior has an ERA of 2.82 in 54.1 innings pitched.

 Wes Anderson (Duluth, Minn.) had another strong year after making the move to shortstop this season. Anderson is batting .361 with 52 hits, 12 doubles, two homeruns and 21 runs batted in. Reed Harter (Colome, S.D.) has also had a solid contribution at the plate as well as Chandler Bakley (Martin, S.D.) who both are hitting above .300 and have 30 or more runs batted in.

 The pitching staff has also provided depth for DWU. Gavin Reichmuth (Chandler, Ariz.) and Ethan Davis (Billings, Mont.) have proved to be consistent throughout the season in rounding out the starting rotation. In the bullpen, Layne Stafford (Arlington, Neb.) and Rick Strubel (Huron, S.D.) have also made contributions out for the Tigers.

 With the solid pitching and steady contributions at the plate, DWU will look to make a run in the GPAC tournament. The Tigers made the GPAC Championship game in 2015 as a seven seed, defeating eighth-seeded Midland that year to advance to the NAIA National Baseball Tournament.

 DWU will battle Mount Marty today at 3 p.m. in the first round of the GPAC tournament in Seward, Neb.