Wonder Boys Host OBU This Weekend

Fate — and the schedule maker — have given the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys an opportunity to determine their own destiny in terms of qualifying for the 2010 Gulf South Conference Baseball Tournament.  Arkansas Tech (26-14 overall, 7-4 GSC) will continue to pursue its first postseason baseball berth since 2007 this weekend with a three-game series against the Ouachita Baptist Tigers (21-16, 6-5). First pitch for the series-opening doubleheader at Tech Field in Russellville is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. The two sides will meet again at 2 p.m. Sunday for a single contest. Admission will be free. Radio station KCAB 980 AM and www.athletics.atu.edu will have live play-by-play coverage of all three games. The Wonder Boys sit in third place in the GSC West Division with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Tech must remain in the top four of the GSC West standings at regular season’s end to earn an invitation to the GSC Tournament May 1-5 in Millington, Tenn. Every opponent remaining on the Wonder Boys’ conference schedule is also in the running for a spot in the postseason. Tech will travel to second-place Delta State (April 17-18) and visit fifth-place Harding (April 24-25) during the final two conference weekends. Third-place Ouachita Baptist joins DSU, Harding and Tech in a four-team scrum for the final three berths from the GSC West in the league’s postseason party.

Nationally top-ranked Southern Arkansas (32-3, 11-0) hasn’t mathematically clinched a spot in the field yet, but the Muleriders are certainly sitting pretty at the moment.

OBU will come to Russellville having won its last three games and five of its last seven. Just two years removed from a NCAA Division II national runner-up finish, Ouachita Baptist is seeking its fifth consecutive berth in the GSC Tournament.

The Tigers’ strength is their defense. Ouachita ranks 21st in the nation in fielding percentage (.968) and 23rd in the country in double plays turned (32).

Arkansas Tech is in the thick of the postseason hunt thanks to an offense that is on a record-setting pace in 2010.
The Wonder Boys rank among the top three teams in the GSC in batting average (.355), slugging percentage (.534), on-base percentage (.436), runs scored (387), base hits (455), runs batted in (333), triples (20), home runs (38), total bases (685) and stolen bases (120).

Those 120 stolen bases have already shattered the previous school record of 84 stolen bases in a season, which was set by the 2008 Wonder Boys. Tech’s 20 triples in 2010 ties the school record set by the 1998 Wonder Boys.

School records for team batting average (.357 in 1981), base hits (532 in 2001), runs scored (404 in 2001), RBIs (353 in 1998) could also be in danger before the 2010 season comes to an end.

And it’s not just team records that are coming under assault in 2010. The Arkansas Tech individual single-season stolen base record was set by Sammy May when he recorded 33 stolen bases in 1953. That record has gone unchallenged for 57 years.

Matt Johnson (photographed), a junior center fielder from Grand Saline, Texas, might be the man to finally surpass May’s total. Johnson leads the GSC and ranks ninth in NCAA Division II with 28 stolen bases this season.

It is already the second-highest stolen base total by a Wonder Boy in a single season. Johnson needs six more steals to set the record.

That might not be the only record that the transfer from Tyler Junior College sets this season.

Johnson has 63 base hits; the school record is 77 by Dario Colovic in 2005. Senior outfielder Chad Wynn of Bono and Johnson are both tracking down single-season school records for runs scored and triples. The mark for runs scored is 61 by John Paul Davis in 2001. The record for triples is six by Greg Hartwick in 1998. Wynn has scored 55 runs and notched four triples. Johnson has scored 54 runs and he also has four triples. But the biggest and most important number out there for the Wonder Boys is eight. Arkansas Tech is seeking both its eighth 30-win baseball season and its eighth appearance in the GSC Tournament. The Wonder Boys can take some big steps toward both of those goals this weekend against Ouachita Baptist.