Rio baseball to face Indiana Tech in NAIA opener

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande baseball team is hoping that a second trip to the hills of east Tennessee will be as successful as the first.

After capturing the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship just over a week ago in Kingsport, Tenn., the RedStorm are headed back to Hunter Wright Stadium for the 2016 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.

The pairings for the nine, five-team regional sites in the first round of the national tournament were announced Friday afternoon by the NAIA national office.

The fifth-seeded RedStorm (37-23) will face No. 4 seed Indiana Tech (39-18) on Tuesday, May 17, at 11 a.m., with the winner facing top-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan (45-12) in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. finale, following the 2:30 p.m. tilt between No. 2 seed Middle Georgia State (39-16) and third-seeded St. Thomas (Fla.) (35-20).

The winner’s bracket final and a pair of elimination games are slated for Wednesday, May 18, while the loser’s bracket final and the championship first final are scheduled for Thursday, May 19 and a second final, if necessary – will take place on Friday, May 20.

Rio Grande punched its ticket to the double-elimination tournament on May 7 by winning the KIAC tournament title with a 6-1 win over top-seeded and 19th-ranked Indiana University-Southeast – the 10th win for head coach Brad Warnimont’s team in their last 11 outings.

IU Southeast also made the tournament field, which includes 31 automatic qualifiers and 14 at-large selections.

For the second straight season, at-large teams were determined by a National Selection Committee (NSC). The NSC consists of one representative from each geographic area, a representative from the National Administrative Council (NAC) Rules and Ratings Committee, the president of the NAIA-Baseball Coaches Association and three at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.

Rio Grande is making its second consecutive trip – and third overall – to the national tourney. The RedStorm also made the field in 2010 as the champion of the Mid-South Conference.

The RedStorm posted a 3-2 record in Opening Round play last season, falling to host Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the championship game. Rio recorded wins over Southeastern (Fla.), top-seeded Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) and Bryan (Tenn.).

Of the 45 schools comprising this year’s tournament field, 23 are making repeat appearances and seven are first-time participants.

The nine regional winners will join host Lewis-Clark State in the 60th Annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series, which is slated for May 27-June 3, in Lewiston, Idaho.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing