NAIA OPENING ROUND LINKS: WATCH | TICKETS | GAME 1 LIVE STATS | GETTING TO FAYETTE
Kansas Wesleyan’s baseball team will begin postseason play in the Show Me State.
The No. 16 ranked Coyotes are the second seed in the Fayette (Mo.) Bracket of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round and will face third-seeded and No. 25-ranked Central Methodist at 2 p.m. Monday on Estes Field – the Eagles’ home site. Opening Round pairings were announced Thursday afternoon.
The Coyotes (42-13) earned an automatic bid to the Opening Round by winning the Kansas Conference’s regular season title. Central Methodist (34-17) lost to MidAmerica Nazarene in the Heart of America Conference tournament championship game and received an at-large bid.
The KWU-Central Methodist winner plays at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday against either top-seeded Southeastern, Fla. (54-7) or No. 4 Madonna, Mich. (35-15)/No. 5 St. Francis, Ill. (25-26). Madonna and St. Francis play the first game Monday at 11 a.m., the winner getting Southeastern at 6 p.m.
The KWU-CMU loser faces the Madonna-St. Francis loser in an elimination game at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The championship game is slated for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. A second title game, if necessary, will be played at noon Thursday – the winner advancing to the NAIA World Series on May 26-June 2 in Lewiston, Idaho.
Southeastern is the top-ranked team in the NAIA and the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
“It’s going to be a tough bracket but they’re all tough brackets,” KWU coach Bill Neale said following the announcement. “Having the number one overall seed in our bracket, we’re probably going to see them at some point but we need to focus on Central Methodist first. We’ve got to win the first game and take care of business in game one and after that we’ll worry about whoever we’re lining up against in the next game.”
Central Methodist was 23-7 in conference play and is 20-4 at Estes Field this spring.
“They’re always good,” Neale said. “They’re going to do all three areas pretty well (pitching, hitting, defense). Offensively they’re diverse, they don’t just do one thing. They can run and they can hit for power, kind of like us. I think the teams that are there are all kind of similar so it should be a fun bracket.”
Wesleyan qualified for the 2022 NAIA Opening Round and went 1-2 in the Oklahoma City bracket. That experience should be beneficial next week, according to Neale.
“I think it will help,” he said. “These guys are going to embrace the competition, they’re not going to be scared, they’re not going to run from anything. They got the experience of playing last year and going to Oklahoma City, which is one of the really good sites and the atmosphere was unbelievable. It will be the same at Central Methodist.”
KWU’s roster features a large group of seniors who will attend graduation ceremonies Saturday morning at Tony’s Pizza Events Center before departing for Missouri.
“Last year was a nice trip and it was fun but it’s a business trip this year and to them it’s make the World Series or bust,” Neale said. “They want to win the World Series and they’re confident they can.
“We need to go in there and just play our baseball, play our brand. We truly believe the only team that can beat us is us. If we strap it up and play our baseball, I think we will have a great chance.”