Baseball is top seed in KCAC Tournament, faces Evangel on Wednesday


Kansas Conference champion Kansas Wesleyan is the top seed in the 2024 KCAC Baseball Tournament that starts on Wednesday with a new 8-team format at the Great Bend Sports Complex in Great Bend.

KWU will face the No. 8 seed Evangel at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the Top Bracket of the tournament.

The tournament field expanded this season to eight teams, with two four-team, double-elimination brackets that will then meet on the final day of the tournament to determine the KCAC Champion.

With a first round victory, the Coyotes will play the winner between Ottawa and McPherson at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday. A loss will send KWU into an elimination game on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

KWU swept the season series with Evangel on February 23 and 24 in Salina.

KWU is 41-8 on the season and set new conference and school records for KCAC wins in a season with a 32-4 KCAC record. The Coyotes won 27 straight KCAC games to close out the regular season, not suffering a KCAC loss since the beginning of March. KWU has won 30 of its last 31 games overall and vaulted to No. 20 in the latest NAIA Top 25 poll.

Jarrett Gable, the reigning KCAC Player of the Year leads the Coyotes in batting average at .415, hits with 83, and RBI with 70. He has a 1.268 OPS and has added 18 homers on the season. He leads the KCAC in hits, and ranks fourth in the KCAC in average, second in RBI and third in homers. Kendall Foster hits .377 for the Coyotes with a KCAC best 21 homers with a 1.393 OPS and a .931 slugging average with 55 RBI.

Jarrett Brannen and Brett Maddock anchor the Coyote pitching staff. Brannen is 10-1 on the season in 12 starts, tossing 64 and a third innings, with 67 strikeouts and 23 walks, featuring a 1.37 WHIP and a 3.78 ERA. Maddock is 8-1 on the season in 14 starts, tossing 67 and a third innings with 69 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP and a 5.08 ERA.

Evangel is 23-24 on the season and finished 16-20 in the KCAC this season, their first in the conference.

Riley Mitchell leads the Valor offensively, hitting .400 on the season with a team best 62 hits, including 13 doubles and seven triples. He has also stolen 31 bases on the season. Levi Loughridge hits .342 for the Valor and has a team best 47 RBI.

Evangel’s pitching staff seven players that have over 20 innings pitched on the season. Wyatt Keplar leads the Valor in ERA at 4.31, with a 1.58 WHIP, and has a 2-3 record on the season in 13 starts and 54 and a third innings pitched with 78 strikeouts. Colby Vavruska is 6-5 with a 4.93 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 69 and a third innings. Isaac Daley has 12 starts on the season and is 4-5 with a 6.55 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP.

Wednesday’s winner will face either McPherson or Ottawa in the top bracket semifinal on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. The loser will play the loser between McPherson and Ottawa at 3:30 on Thursday in an elimination game.

The KCAC Championship Game is on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. featuring the winners of each four-team bracket.

KWU, 8-seed Evangel, 4-seed Ottawa and 5-seed McPherson are in the top bracket.

2-seed Tabor, 3-seed Oklahoma Wesleyan, 6-seed Friends and 7-seed Avila are in the lower bracket.

The winner of the KCAC Tournament will receive one of two automatic bids to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round held at campus sites around the country May 13-16. The 67th AVISTA NAIA World Series is May 24-31 in Lewiston, Idaho.