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May 12, 2009

USI starts NCAA II Tournament with GLVC opponent

Screaming Eagles Baseball Notes

EVANSVILLE, Ind. The University of Southern Indiana baseball team starts the NCAA Division II Tournament with a familiar opponent when they play Northern Kentucky University Thursday at 5 p.m. (CST). The Midwest Regional, which runs May 14-17, is being hosted by top-seeded Ashland University at the V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.

USI (37-17) is the third seed, while NKU (40-20) starts tournament play as the fourth seed. Joining the Screaming Eagles and the Norse from the GLVC is fifth-seeded University of Indianapolis (40-19) and sixth-seeded Rockhurst University (35-21).

The Norse are coming off their 4-0 performance in capturing the GLVC Tournament title. The Eagles took both ends of a doubleheader from the Norse earlier this season at the USI Baseball Field and lead the all-time series, 43-37.

The top two seeds in the regional come from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in Ashland (41-13-1) and second-seeded Grand Valley State University (41-13-1).

The Eagles begin regional play after a third-place finish in the GLVC Tournament last weekend. USI went 2-2 in the league tournament, sandwiching a pair of victories between a two losses.

USI sophomore catcher Dylan Mooney (St. Charles, Missouri) led the Eagles during GLVC Tournament, hitting .444 with five runs scored, four home runs, and 10 RBIs. Three of the home runs came during USI's victory over Quincy University in the second round of the tournament. Junior pitcher/infielder Tyler Choate (Carmi, Illinois) followed Mooney by hitting .429, while senior outfielder Chad Werry (New Harmony, Indiana) had five hits in the last two games to end the tournament batting .368.

Werry and Mooney have been on fire for the Eagles over the last 10 games. Werry is hitting a blistering .419 with two home runs and eight RBIs, while Mooney is batting .385, nearly 80 points over his season average, with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

For the spring, Werry continues to lead the Eagles with a career-best season. He is posting career-bests in batting average (.393), runs scored (49), hits (81), doubles (25), home runs (7), and stolen bases (19).

On the mound, the starting rotation is led by Choate and junior right-hander D.J. Smith (Vincennes, Indiana). Choate, who got a no-decision in the first game of the GLVC Tournament after a strong outing, is 7-3 with a 3.22 ERA, while Smith posted USI's first win in the league playoff to raise his record to 6-1 with a 4.24 ERA.

The Eagles also got a strong start from senior right-hander Michael Dewig (Haubstadt, Indiana), who is 2-2 in 2009. Dewig got a no-decision in the extra-inning win over Bellarmine University in the semifinals, but not before pitching a career-best eight innings and striking out a career-high nine batters.

In the bullpen, USI has its dynamic duo in sophomore right-hander Trevor Leach (Danville, Indiana) and senior right-handed closer Shaun Larsen (Tell City, Indiana). Leach, who set the USI single-season record for wins, has a 10-0 record with seven victories coming in relief and could get a start as the Eagles progress through the tournament.

Larsen has re-asserted his dominance on the mound this season. The 2008 third-team All-American and 2009 first-team All-GLVC reliever has 16 saves and a 6-5 record this season. He also had a 2.57 ERA in a school-record tying 30 appearances and 49 innings of work.

The 16 saves led the NCAA Division II in the last national statistics rankings released May 5.

Ray Simmons, USI Sports Information Director

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