Date Published

Monday, May 6, 2013

CHICKASHA – The Drover baseball team will be playing in the 2013 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round for the first time in school history after qualifying for the tournament.

The Drovers will not have to travel far for the Opening Round. (23) USAO (40-17) will play (15) Sterling College (45-12) at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Jim Wade Stadium on Oklahoma City University’s campus.

“Being our first time in the national tournament with this format, we are very excited to be a part of it,” head coach Mike Ross said. “That was the goal that we had at the beginning of the season so it’s always exciting when you can accomplish your goal.”

There are nine different sites around the country that will host the opening round, which is scheduled for May 9-13. Each site will feature a five-team double-elimination tournament.

The Drovers were chosen as the No. 3 team in the five-team bracket. Win or lose, they will play again on Friday.

“Being in the three spot is good for us,” Ross said. “I don’t necessarily think it gives us an advantage, but at least we don’t have to play two games on the first day.”

Other teams in the bracket are (2) Oklahoma City, Northwestern (Iowa) and Jamestown (N.D.). Click here for details.

The Drovers received the ninth at-large after a strong season and performance in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament. Sixteen at-large bids were awarded and 45 teams qualified.

The final Top 25 Coaches’ Poll, which had the Drovers sitting at No. 23 in the nation, was released Sunday afternoon.

The Drovers will likely have to face (2) Oklahoma City a sixth time this season. USAO fell 4-2 to OCU in the SAC Tournament.

“I told the players after the Oklahoma City game, ‘hopefully, this isn’t the last time we talk as a team,’” Ross said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t. They’re excited to be in the national tournament. They’re ready to practice today.”

The Drovers have scheduled practices the next three afternoons before playing on Thursday.

USAO is one of five SAC schools to qualify for the tournament and one of 10 to make their first national tournament trip. Other SAC schools that will be competing are Lubbock Christian, Oklahoma Baptist, Oklahoma City and Rogers State.

“It’s good for the conference that we’ve got five teams in,” Ross said. “It speaks really highly on the quality of baseball that is in this conference.”

In 2000, the Drovers competed in the regional finals but the program has not been to what is now considered the national tournament.

The winners at each site will join host Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) at the 57th annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, May 24 – 31.

NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of 12 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting the first 17 games of the 2013 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series (May 24 – 29). Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-World Series pass is available for $29.95. For more information, click here.