Golden Eagles Set for Norman Regional

TULSA, Okla. – The Golden Eagles (35-25) make their 13th consecutive NCAA Regional appearance (fifth-longest active streak) after claiming their 13th straight Summit League title over the weekend, which ranks as the third longest streak of conference championships in NCAA history behind Oklahoma State’s 16 consecutive Big Eight crowns (1981-96) and Wichita State’s 14 straight Missouri Valley titles (1987-2000). This is ORU’s 22nd regional appearance and the first time since 2003 that the Golden Eagles earned a No. 4 regional seed. No. 11 Oklahoma (44-15) is the top seed, while second-seeded California (29-23) earned an at-large bid out of the Pac-10 and third-seeded North Carolina (36-20) earned an at-large bid out of the ACC.

Norman Regional Three Dot Data…
ORU is making its 22nd appearance in NCAA Regional play  but its first in Norman … the Golden Eagles are 10-14 in regional games played in Oklahoma … ORU last played in an OU-hosted regional in 2000 when the Sooners hosted at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, which is also the last time ORU played an in-state post-season game … the Golden Eagles last faced North Carolina in a post-season contest at the 1978 College World Series, with ORU winning 11-0 …  this is the third straight year ORU has appeared in a regional with a team from California (2008-UC-Irvine; 2009-Cal Poly) … just three Oklahomans dot the ORU roster: 
Dallas Beeler (Jenks), Justin Mitchell (Broken Arrow) and Dale Reneau (Oklahoma City) … LHP Mark Guest played his freshman season for the Sooners … ORU SS Tyler Saladino and Oklahoma RHP Bobby Shore were teammates last season at Palomar College, while ORU RHP Dallas Beeler and OU INF Cale Ellis were teammates at Seminole State.

ORU vs. Norman Regional Field
The Golden Eagles are 34-38 all-time vs. the Norman Regional Field. ORU is 28-32 against Oklahoma (last met in 2004), 4-5 vs. Cal (2007), and 2-1 against North Carolina (1986). ORU head coach Rob Walton is a combined 2-3 vs. the field: 1-1 vs. Oklahoma and 1-2 against Cal.

ORU All-Time in Regional Play
ORU is 29-42 all-time in NCAA post-season play, including a 29-38 mark in regional games. ORU won regional championships in 1978 and 2006, and advanced to the program’s only College World Series in 1978. Head coach Rob Walton is 11-10 in regional play and 11-12 overall in NCAA post-season games.

ORU Captures 13th Straight Summit League Title
P.J. Sequeira and Nick Baligod combined for eight hits and seven RBI, and Tournament MVP Chris Elder hit his third home run of the weekend to lead ORU to a 12-2 victory over South Dakota State in the Summit League Tournament championship game, Saturday at J.L. Johnson Stadium. The tournament championship is the 13th straight for the Golden Eagles.
    Playing as the visiting team the Golden Eagles wasted no time in taking control of the game, scoring five runs in the top first. Joey Winiecki and Sequeira started the spree with back-to-back doubles to give ORU a 1-0 lead. Baligod followed Sequeira with a two-run home run for a 3-0 lead, and Elder connected for a two-run shot three batters later as ORU surged to a 5-0 advantage.
    ORU knocked South Dakota State (39-21) starting pitcher Stephen Bougher (2-4) from the game in the second inning after Sequeira doubled home another run with one out, giving ORU a 6-0 lead.
    The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 7-0 in the fourth on an RBI single by Baligod, and took a 9-0 lead when Bennett Pickar’s bloop single scored a pair of runs with two outs in the fifth.
    SDSU finally got on the board on a solo home run by Zach Briggs in the bottom of the fifth, abut ORU came right back with two run in the top of the sixth. Sequeira doubled and scored on a single by Baligod, who later came around to score when Elder reached on a two-out error as ORU took an 11-1 lead.
    The Jackrabbits capped their scoring with a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth, and Baligod knocked in ORU’s final run with an infield single in the top of the ninth.
    Jeff Burleson (8-4) tossed six solid innings to earn the championship victory. The senior right-hander allowed two runs on six hits, striking out three and walking three. Dallas Beeler pitched the final three innings, allowing only a two-out single in the ninth, to earn his second save.

Elder Named Tournament MVP
Junior OF Chris Elder earned Summit League Tournament MVP honors last weekend after helping ORU to its 13th straight title. Elder batted .364 (4-11) with three home runs and eight RBI. He hit a pair of home runs — including a first-inning grand slam — in a 21-6 semi-final win over South Dakota State, and belted another first-inning homer in the championship game against the Jackrabbits. Joining Elder on the all-tournament team were Nick BaligodSeth FurmanekBryce Smolen and Brett Sowers.

Saladino Named Summit League Player, Newcomer of the Year
Junior SS Tyler Saladino has been named Summit League Player and Newcomer of the Year in voting by league head coaches. He is joined on the all-league first team by teammates OF Nick Baligod, DH Seth Furmanek and RHP Bryce Smolen. OF’s Chris Elder and Joey Winiecki were named to the second team.
    Saladino finished the regular season batting .388 overall with 17 home runs, 71 RBI and 14 stolen bases. In 28 Summit League games Saladino hit a league-best .491 while collecting at least one hit in every game. He added 11 home runs and 50 RBI. Saladino is the 14th ORU player in 13 seasons to either win or share player of the year honors, and the ninth to capture newcomer accolades.
    Baligod earns first team honors after enjoying a strong first season with the Golden Eagles. The junior left-handed hitter is batting .377 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI overall, and batted .435-8-35 in 28 Summit League games.
    Furmanek joins Saladino and Baligod after leading the league in home runs. Overall, Furmanek is batting .313 with 21 homers and 58 RBI, while also serving as a catcher and starting pitcher. His 21 home runs are the most by an ORU player in 11 seasons, and are two shy of the league season record. In Summit play Furmanek hit .389-13-38.
    Smolen is the only ORU pitcher named to the all-league team. The junior righty is 8-3 overall with a 4.61 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 84.0 innings. He posted 6-1, 3.33 numbers in conference play. 
    Elder enters the post-season hitting .320-6-45, but batted .426-3-18 in league play. Winiecki is batting .337-0-22 with 13 stolen bases overall, and .327-0-16 with eight steals in Summit League contests.

Elite Company
ORU is making its 13th straight NCAA Regional appearance this weekend, which is currently the fifth-longest active streak. Other lengthy streak include:
Team    Streak
Miami (Fla.)    38
Florida State    33
Cal State-Fullerton    19
Rice    16
Oral Roberts    13
Texas    12

Bomb Squad
ORU enters the Norman Regional ranked fifth nationally with 98 home runs. The homer total is not only tied for second in school history, but just two away from the school record of 100 hit during the 1999 season.
    Additionally, ORU has four double-digit home run hitters for the first time since 1986. Seth Furmanek (22), Tyler Saladino (17), Nick Baligod (11), Colby Price (10) are in the double-figure column this year. The 1986 quartet was led by Pete Schmidt (15) and included future Major Leaguers Craig Colbert (14), Keith Lockhart (10) and Bob Zupcic (10).

Thou Shalt Have No Other Baligod’s Before Me
Junior OF Nick Baligod is enjoying the type of season ORU head coach Rob Walton envisioned when Baligod arrived in Tulsa. After missing the season’s first nine games recovering from December thumb surgery, Baligod enters regional play batting .396-11-53 in 51 games. Baligod, who is batting .419 since March 23, is also ORU’s top clutch hitter. He hits .431 with runners on base and .415 with runners in scoring position. 

Powerful Duo
Senior C/DH Seth Furmanek and junior SS Tyler Saladino have spent the better part of the season pounding opposing pitching, and now they’re chasing history. With 39 combined home runs, the pair needs three more to become the top home run hitting duo in ORU history. 
Players (HR)    Season    Total
Mike Hill (23)/Ryan Neill (18)    1999    41
Furmanek (22)/Saladino (17)    2010    39
Ron Henika (20)/Keith Mucha (15)    1983    35
Furmanek (17)/Juan Martinez (16)    2009    33
Rick Vaughan (18)/Brad Robinson (15)    1987    33
Mike Batesole (18)/Page Odle (14)    1985    32

Smoke on the Water
When the 2010 season began, it would have been difficult to imagine Bryce Smolen playing any kind of significant role for ORU’s pitching staff. After all, the second year walk-on transfer from Texas-Pan American tossed only 3.2 innings last season for a Golden Eagles team rich in pitching. But with this season’s staff depleted by injuries, Smolen was given a chance and has stepped up in a big way. A first-team All-Summit League selection, Smolen enters the Norman Regional as ORU’s leader in wins (9), strikeouts (84), innings pitched (93.0) and opponent batting average (.254). His six complete games are tied for most since 2005.
    Over his last three starts, Smolen is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and has allowed just 12 hits and five walks in 20 innings while striking out 25 batters. 

Bunt You Very Much
Junior OF Joey Winiecki has made a living this season via the bunt base hit. Winiecki enters NCAA Regional play with 22 bunt singles, and a team-high 14 sacrifice bunts. 

Chart Climber
With one home run in last weekend’s Summit League Tournament, DH/C Seth Furmanek moved up the ORU career top 10 list. With 39 career bombs, Furmanek enters this weekend’s Norman Regional tied for third on the all-time list. His 22 homers this season also ties him for third all-time, and Furmanek needs two more bombs to become the Summit League’s single-season leader.

ORU and the MLB Draft
Four members of the 2010 Golden Eagles have heard their names called in the Major League Baseball draft:
Player    Team (Yr)    Round
Bennett Pickar, C    ATL (‘09)    15th
Tyler Saladino, SS    HOU (‘09)    36th
Dallas Beeler, RHP    TOR (‘08)    37th
Brett Sowers, INF    LAD (‘06)    47th

Walk On
ORU won its 12th straight Summit League championship last season with as many as four walk-ons in the starting line up on any given day. Injuries have again ravaged ORU in 2010, but this time the pitching staff has been effected. Of the nine pitchers who have pitched at least 20 innings this season four are walk-ons (Dallas BeelerJameson DunnDan Martony and all-conference starter Bryce Smolen). All four have been solid contributors for ORU all season.

Injuries on the Mound
Those walk-ons have been needed more than ever because of injuries to the pitching staff. RHPDrew Bowen (elbow), LHP Mike Torrence (rib cage), RHP Jason Stacy (shoulder), and RHP R.J. Davis (various) are all out for the season, while RHP Sean Johnson (various), RHP Dallas Beeler(Tommy John recovery),  RHP Jared Schlehuber (various; 3 app. in 2 mos.) and RHP Jameson Dunn (various; injured knee in reg. season finale) have all missed significant time. 

Baligod Earns Weekly Honors from Louisville Slugger, Summit League
OF Nick Baligod has been named player of the week by both Louisville Slugger and The Summit League, it was announced on May 3. The Louisville Slugger award is presented weekly by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
    Baligod earns both weekly honors after hitting .789 (15-19) with five doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI in four games last week for the Golden Eagles. The junior collected at least three hits in every game and had a five-RBI and four-RBI efforts.
    Baligod posted a 1.684 slugging percentage and a .818 on-base percentage. He helped ORU set school single-game records for runs, hits and runs in an inning in a 34-10 win at IPFW.

Summit League Dominance
With 13 straight Summit League titles, the Golden Eagles own the third-longest streak in NCAA history behind Oklahoma State’s 16 consecutive Big Eight crowns (1981-96) and Wichita State’s 14-straight Missouri Valley titles (1987-2000). Since joining the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference) for the 1998 season, ORU is 255-36 (.876) in Summit League regular-season games, and 223-26 (.896) since 2000. The Golden Eagles own a 42-1 (.977) tournament record, giving ORU a 297-37 (.889) overall record in conference contests. Under coach Rob Walton, the Golden Eagles are 159-21 (.883) against league opponents, including a perfect 21-0 in post-season play. ORU has won 33 consecutive Summit League tournament games since last suffering a loss to Southern Utah in the 2000 tournament. 

ORU vs. Ranked Opponents
The Golden Eagles always face a tough non-conference schedule, and have held their own against ranked opponents. Under Rob Walton, the Golden Eagles have posted a 28-49 record in 77 contests against ranked teams the past seven seasons, including 3-5 this year.  Last season, the Golden Eagles defeated No. 5 Rice, 5-2 on March 8, 2009 to give Walton his highest-ranked victim.

Our House
The Golden Eagles back the belief about home field advantage, posting a record of 868-230-2  (.790) since J.L. Johnson Stadium opened in 1978. Since Rob Walton  became head coach in 2004, the Golden Eagles have posted a 162-20 (.890) mark at home. 

ORU Baseball History
The Golden Eagles have appeared in 21 NCAA Regionals, including 12 straight, since the baseball program began in 1966. ORU earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2006. ORU made its only trip to the College World Series in 1978, defeating North Carolina in the opener before losing a pair of one-run games to Arizona State and Miami. The Golden Eagles have had 10 First-Team All-America selections, 17 second-team selections and 19 third-team selections. ORU has also had eight Freshman All-America First-Team honorees, as well as four freshman honorable mention recipients. ORU boasts 16 major leaguers, including Doug Bernier, Michael Hollimon and Steve Holm, who all made their debuts in 2008. Other notable major leaguers include Keith Lockhart (former Atlanta Braves infielder), Tom Nieto (former Minnesota Twins catcher), Bob Zupcic (ex-Boston Red Sox outfielder), Todd Burns (former Oakland A’s reliever) and Mike Moore. In 1981, Moore was selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick by Seattle and went on to a 14-year career, winning a World Series title and appearing in the All-Star game with Oakland in 1989. 

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