PREVIEW | Second-Seeded Grizzlies Begin HCAC Tournament Title Defense on Thursday

PREVIEW | Second-Seeded Grizzlies Begin HCAC Tournament Title Defense on Thursday

Tournament Championship Page

FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Franklin College baseball team begins the defense of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Tournament championship on Thursday (May 9) afternoon, taking on third-seeded Anderson University in a rematch of last year's conference championship game. First pitch is set for approximately 3:30 p.m., following the conclusion of the first game of the day. 

How We Got Here
Franklin closed out the regular season with a 25-13 mark, earning the No. 2 record in the HCAC Tournament by going 12-6 in conference play. It marks the second straight trip to the league tournament for the Grizzlies, during which they have led all HCAC programs with 64 wins and 29 conference victories. 

About the Ravens
Led by head coach Matt Bair, Anderson enters the conference tournament after racking up 20 wins in the regular season, going 10-8 overall in conference play. The Ravens are powered by two-way threat Joe Moran, who leads the team with a .371 batting average and a 7-0 record on the mound with a 2.67 earned run average.

Anderson threw everything they had at the Grizzlies when the teams met back on Apr. 30, but Franklin was able to use a big afternoon from Sam Claycamp to earn a sweep of their league foes. The Grizzlies have won the last seven meetings between the two teams. 

Still Raking
The Franklin offense has been the most potent in the league in 2019, tying with Rose-Hulman for the top team batting average at .315. The Grizzlies lead the HCAC by a wide margin in home runs (36), RBI (290), runs (325), hits (414), on-base percentage (.423) and slugging percentage (.476). Senior Sam Claycamp leads the Grizzlies and ranks second in the league with a .408 batting average and was one of eight Grizzlies to play in at least 19 games and bat over .300.

The Dudes Dealing
The Grizzly pitching staff enters the conference tourney with a 5.26 team ERA and their 281 combined strikeouts ranks second among all staffs in the league and just three behind Earlham. Senior Jordan Clark is likely to get the ball for game one and will bring a 3-0 record with a 3.57 ERA and eye-popping 12.31 K/9 into the weekend.

Fellow senior Aaron Leming enters the conference tourney with a 6-2 record with a 4.17 ERA over a team-high 54 innings pitched. Last year, Leming tossed a complete game against Anderson to clinch the HCAC title. Sophomore Krae Sparks ranks fifth in the HCAC with 53 strikeouts and is fanning just under nine batters per nine innings.

Senior Nate Stonebraker leads the HCAC with six saves and has punched out 41 hitters over 39 innings of work. Fellow senior Tanner Nicholson leads the Grizzly relievers with a 2.41 ERA over 10 appearances spanning 18.2 innings.

The Rest of the Field
The first game of the conference tournament will feature fourth-seeded Defiance taking on fifth-seeded Transylvania. In search of their first conference tournament championship, the Yellow Jackets won their final four conference games to break into the five-team field. Transylvania is in search of their second league title and first since 2008. The winner of that game will advance to game three of the tournament, where regular season champion Rose-Hulman awaits. The Engineers rode a dominant pitching staff to a 14-2 record in conference play and are bidding for their fifth HCAC Tournament crown.

How to Follow
Links to live video and stats can be found at the conference tournament website, located at the top of the page. You can follow along with how the Grizzlies on doing on Twitter by following us @FCGrizAthletics.