Despite a tremendous late-season surge, the Oklahoma Wesleyan University Eagles baseball team won’t go partying this year.
For the first time since 2017 (minus the national virus-related spring sports shutdown of 2020 — the Eagles have been left on the outside looking in at the NAIA national tournament.
The NAIA released on Thursday the 46 tourney qualifiers and the only O’s on the list were Oklahoma City (47-4), Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) (38-15) and OKWU conference rival Ottawa (Kan.) (42-8).
The Eagles scrapped to a 38-19 record, including a solid 20-14 mark in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
But, a five-game conference losing streak to open March dropped them out of the NAIA national poll and forced them into a catch-up mode all season, affixed to all the pressure of being in that position.
OKWU recovered nicely — it hammered out a 20-9 record in its final 29 conference games.
The Eagles pieced together an 11-0 mark from April 16 through May 6.
But, in the KCAC postseason tourney — which was vital for OKWU to make a last-ditch statement to the national committee that they deserved to be in the Big Dance — they finished with an unimpressive 1-2 record.
Both tourney losses were by one run — 3-2 against Ottawa and 7-6 against Kansas Wesleyan University.
Both Ottawa and KWU (34-27) made the 46-team nationals field — Ottawa as the KCAC regular season champion and KWU as the KCAC postseason tourney crown winner.
Two other KCAC teams, McPherson (Kan.) (39-12) and Tabor (Kan.) (37-17-1) also qualified as two of 15 at-large selectees.
This will be the second time in the last seven full seasons OKWU won’t compete in the regionals.
Head coach Kirk Kelley guided OKWU to a 49-14 record, and NAIA World Series spot, in 2021.
He graduated some important talent — but more importantly several cumulative years of experience — off that squad.
Challenges created a bumpy road in 2022 for OKWU. One of their most valuable veteran infielders and offensive weapons was unable to play, the pitching staff struggled at times with ball control and issuing free passes, the offensive production experienced hills and valleys, and just plain bad luck took their toll.
Even so, OKWU put together an outstanding season — one that just didn’t add up to a regional spot.
Veteran senior slugger Cody Muncy slammed 16 doubles, crushed 16 homers, drove in 60 runs, drew an incredible 50 walks and batted .397 to energize the offense.
Another returnee Seth Delgado led with 19 doubles, blasted 14 dingers and rang up 60 RBI’s.
The next most consistent biggest bats belonged to Nicholas Chavez (.359, 11 2Bs, 3 HRs, 30 RBIs), Marcus Randall (.351, 4 2Bs, 4 HRs, 24 RBIs), Mason Brinkley (.347, 6 2Bs, 6 HRs, 41 RBIs, 8-of-11 SBs), Hector Manon (.311, 13 2Bs, 3 HRs, 45 RBIs), Derek Sims (.300, 11 2Bs, 4 HRs, 24 RBI’s, 14-of-20 SBs), and Jesus Rojas (.286, 6 2Bs, 7 HRs, 36 RBIs).
Josh Logan and Julio Goncalves produced six and five homers, and 37 and 33 RBI’s, respectively.
That adds up to 10 players with 24-or-more RBIs.
Up-to-date pitching stats aren’t available on the team’s website, but Oracio De Leon, Kellen Brothers and Braden Corley were three of the team’s primary starters. Numerous hurlers played strong relief roles.
Other geographical area teams in the regional field include MicAmerica Nazarene (36-16) and Science & Arts (35-13).
This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Focus on Oklahoma Wesleyan University baseball postseason fate