NEW ALBANY — IU Southeast baseball, ranked No. 24 in the final NAIA national poll, found out its national tournament destination Thursday at a team watch-party on campus.
The third-seeded Grenadiers will visit Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga., where the host school is the top seed and ranked No. 4 in the nation. IUS will face No. 13 Georgetown, a team that beat the Grenadiers home and away during the regular-season.
In addition to the 35-18 Grenadiers, the double-elimination bracket also includes No. 4 seed St. Xavier (Ill.) and the No. 5 seed Union College (Ky.). St. Xavier (34-13) is the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season champion and Union is the AAC Pool B winner.
Action begins Monday. IUS senior pitcher Kyle Hawkins said the Grenadiers will be ready. He looks forward to getting a possible shot against top-seed Gwinnett, a team that beat the Grenadiers 8-2 in an opening-round matchup three years ago.
“I like it. I’m glad to go back there. We went there in 2016. It’s probably one of the nicest facilities in the NAIA. I think we match up pretty well with most of the teams. It’ll be nice to play Gwinnett again because we lost a tough one to them three years ago,” Hawkins said.
Second-team All-River States Conference senior Cody Maloon said the national tourney experience of some of the team’s veterans is nice, but it’s their leadership for a team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the lineup that will be especially crucial.
“There’s a few of us who have been there every year. Our experience in the national tournament will be key to showing the young guys what it’s like. They haven’t let big moments overshadow things and get to them,” Maloon said.
IUS head coach Ben Reel was away from the team for a medical issue Thursday, but associate head coach Christian McHatton is excited to see how this squad performs. The opening game matchup is against a quality opponent, obviously, but the Grenadiers will likely use one of their top two pitchers this time around.
“Any time you can win 40 games in a season, you’ve got a pretty good team behind you,” McHatton said of Georgetown. “I think we got a pretty good draw. Being a 2 or 3 seed, you only have to win three games to win the tournament.”
The nine opening round champions join Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) at the 63rd annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, May 24- 31.
Game 1 — No. 4 Saint Xavier (Ill.) vs. No. 5 Union (Ky.), 11 a.m.
Game 2 — No. 2 Georgetown (Ky.) vs. No. 3 IU Southeast, 3 p.m.
Game 3 — No. 1 Georgia Gwinnett vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.
Game 4 — Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 5 — Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 2, 3 p.m.
Game 6 — Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3, 7 p.m.
Game 7 — Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 11 a.m.
Game 8 — Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, 3 p.m.
Game 9 — Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 8, noon