No. 8 USAO Drovers vs. No. 14 Texas Wesleyan Rams
When: April 19&20, 2019
Where: Sycamore Park in Fort Worth, Texas Time: Friday at 2 p.m.; Saturday at 12 & 2 p.m.
Series Record: Texas Wesleyan leads, 10-9 dating back to 2008.

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Friday: USAO JR. Jean Mutaner (9-1, 1.91) vs TWU SR. Cameron Vige (7-2, 4.32)

Saturday G1: USAO FR. Matt Merrill (8-1, 1.72) vs TWU JR. Josh Brown (4-1, 2.78)

Saturday G2: USAO JR. Colton Williams (11-0, 1.23) vs TWU JR. Houston Glad (9-2 , 3.15)

With the regular season winding down every game becomes more and more critical. The 8th ranked USAO Drovers (34-10, 18-3 SAC) are heading down to Fort Worth to take on the 14th ranked Texas Wesleyan Rams (37-9, 16-4 SAC) in a premier matchup. This matchup is also featured as the NAIA Ball (@NAIABALL on twitter) game of the week.

What To Know About USAO:

The Drovers come into this game on a 12 game win streak which includes a series sweeps over Wayland Baptist and Panhandle State University. The Drovers are coached by head coach Mike Ross. Ross is in his 11th season with the Drovers as he has secured 300 wins and 2 World Series appearance during his time at USAO. Assistant Coach Tyle Hankins is in his 1st season with Drovers and most recently spent time with Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

The pitching staff for the Drovers has been lights out all season long as they led the league in earned run average with a solid 2.20 ERA on the season. USAO also ranks 2nd in opponent batting average as they have held opposing team to a .176 batting average. The Drovers starting pitcher staff is led by the trio of Colton Williams, Matt Merrill and Jean Muntaner. Williams currently sitting at 11-0 on the season with a 1.23 ERA which ranks him second in the NAIA. Merrill is 8-1 on the Season with a 1.72 ERA. Merrill is currently holding opponents to a .136 batting on the season which ranks him first in the NAIA. Muntaner is 9-1 on the season with a 1.91 ERA. Muntaner has picked up 61.1 innings for the Drovers and has racked up 63 strikeouts on the season. Out of the bullpen the Drovers rely on righy Rudy Gonzalez to carry the majority of the load. He is currently 3-2 on the season with a 1.28 ERA. Gonzalez has thrown 49.1 innings for the Drovers and is holding opponents batting average to .153 on the season.

The offense for the Drovers has picked up here lately and during this 12 game win streak they are averaging 10 runs per game. The offense ranks 11th in the NAIA with a .332 batting average for the season. The Drovers also sit 14th in the NAIA in runs score per game averaging 8 runs per game. The offense is led by Luis Pelayo, who is currently batting .388 on the season with 5 home runs and 47 RBI’s. The Drovers are getting solid play from the Catcher Alex Sanchez as he is tearing up the baseball as of late. In his last 10 games Sanchez has collected 9 home runs and has added 24 RBI’s to his total. On the season, Sanchez is hitting .382 and has 48 RBI’s. P.J. Garcia has put together a good Senior campaign hitting .381 with 4 home runs and 29 RBI’s on the season.

Shortstop P.J. Garcia said “This weekend is a big series for us. Lately, we have been playing really well as a team. Pitching has been outstanding all year and our hitting is coming back around. Coach has been telling us lately to play each game as an elimination game, and that’s been our mindset. We, as a team, need to continue that mindset and focus on us and what we are doing. Excited for this weekend and what’s to come.”

Catcher Alex Sanchez said “I’ll tell you this much Texas Wesleyan is always a in the top contenders. They also show up to play every game. This is no doubt the most important series of the year due to the set backs we’ve had on our team. At the end of the day if they bring their A game and we do as well we are coming out on top.”

What To Know About Texas Wesleyan:

The Rams currently are just 1 game out of first place but own the tie breaker over Oklahoma City after beat the Stars in that series back on March 30th. The Rams are coached by Head Coach Bobby Garza, who was the assistant for 4 year at Texas Wesleyan before taking over the head coaching job just last season. The Assistant Coach for the Rams is Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach is in his 3rd season as the assistant coach with the Rams.

The Rams offense currently ranks 28th in the country in batting average with a .316 team average . The offense is led by Caden Williams who is hitting .458 with 2 home runs and 17 RBI’s. Michael Davila is hitting .354 on the season with 3 home runs and 40 runs for the Rams on the season. Sheadion Jamankia is hitting .359 for the Rams with 3 home runs, 33 RBI’s and 19 walks on the season.

The pitching staff for the Rams has been dominate as they rank 2nd in total batter struck out with 402 on the season and are ranked 16th in opponent batting average, holding opponents to a .233 average on the season. Houston Glad has been impressive this season as he is currently 9-2 with a 3.15 ERA for the Rams. Glad has tallied 68.2 innings for the Rams and has collected 79 strikeouts on the season. Cameron Vige is another key arm for the Rams as he is 7-2 with a 4.32 ERA on the season. Vige has thrown 66.2 innings on the season and has held opponents to a .237 batting average. The Rams go-to guy out of the bullpen has been Parker Robinson who has tallied 47 innings with a 1.72 ERA and 64 strikeouts.

Texas Wesleyan Pitcher Houston Glad said “This weekend is a huge for both teams, it could decide the 1 and 2 seed for the conference tournament. The games are going to be a battle. Both pitching staffs have been great so far this year. I’m looking forward to some highly competitive games this weekend at Sycamore Park.”

Rams Pitcher Parker Robinson said “This is a big series for us, I’m confident in our guys and what we bring to the table to be able to compete with anyone in the nation. This season has gone well so far for us because we all have one common goal in mind and play for each other. It’s going to be a huge weekend for us in the conference, and I’m excited to go out and compete.”

Special Guest Pickers:

Cody From @NAIABall on twitter

Pick: USAO (3-0) sweeps the series

“Another NAIA Ball Series of the Week appearance for USAO, I’m rolling with the Drovers in Fort Worth. Bottom line: USAO has the best staff in the nation and it’ll carry over out in Texas. I expect all three games to be competitive but USAO will rise up to their competition this weekend with the SAC on the line.”

Robby Gutierrez from @NAIABall on twitter

Pick: 2-1 USAO

“A huge Sooner Athletic Conference matchup between two top 25 teams in Ft. Worth! USAO has arguably the best staff in the nation posting a 2.16 era through 43 games. Texas Wesleyan swings the bat well hitting .316 avg as a team. If USAO can have its staff go deep into games and silence the Rams bats then the Drovers will win the series”