Thursday marks the beginning of what coach Mark Brew and his staff hope is the beginning of three straight tournament appearances. A SSAC championship is first on the wish list, followed by hosting the Opening Round of the NAIA National Tournament, and then another shot at the NAIA World Series crown.
The staff can already check off the first two dates, but the Brew crew knows it must win the Opening Round of the National to advance to the World Series for a sixth straight time.
Brew wants his 46-8-1 Flames to make a strong showing in the SSAC tourney. "We haven't fared too well in that event in recent years" he pointed out after his Flames swept past Belhaven last weekend.
But after surrendering the regular-season SSAC title to Faulkner and dropping to the fifth spot in the NAIA Coaches Poll, Brew would like to see his club make a statement this week and have a full head of steam heading into the Opening Round of the National Tournament.
The SSAC, considered by many to be the strongest conference from top to bottom in the NAIA, has four teams, Faulkner (3), Lee (5), Auburn-Montgomery (16) and Shorter (20) ranked in the top 20. The Flames will face the University of Mobile on Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT. The SSAC tourney has eight teams and is a double-elimination event. It is scheduled to end on Monday.
NOTES - Roberto Reyes is near the top in several hitting stats. He's No. 1 with 72 RBI; No. 1 in at bats, 208; and No. 11 in the NAIA with 13 home runs. Blake Barber is No. 9 in batting .438 and No. 2 in hits, 82. Brady Renner has scored 58 runs and ranks 10th in that department.... Lee hurlers also own some lofty stats. Lefty Patrick Merkling holds opponents to only a .145 batting average, which is No. 1. Kris Hall is 7th in ERA with a 1.47 ERA in 79 innings of work.... MLB scouts will be watching the tourney closely, especially Hall and Faulkner's Corey Black. The Eagle hurler brings an ERA of 0.97 into the action.