If you haven’t watched the Oral Roberts University baseball team play this season, you’ve missed some very good college baseball. However, with the Summit League baseball tournament coming to J.L. Johnson Stadium next week, you still have time.
The Golden Eagles have had some very impressive performances this season, having swept a three-game series at Alabama, beating Kansas 7-2, splitting a pair of games with OU and OSU, and losing only four Summit League games. ORU was scheduled to host OSU for another game this Tuesday, as this paper went to press. The final conference series is scheduled for this weekend, as ORU travels to take on Western Illinois in a three-game series.
ORU will host the Summit League tournament, beginning on Wednesday, May 24 and running through Saturday, May 27. Only six schools in the Summit League have baseball teams, with the top four advancing to the tournament. Along with regular season champs ORU, the other schools in the double elimination tournament will be North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Western Illinois.
Game times for the tournament will be noon and 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 6:00 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. on Saturday, with a second game immediately following if necessary.
The Golden Eagles have several players that rank at or near the top of most statistical categories in the Summit League. Players to watch include;
Noah Cummings, currently ranks fifth with a .335 batting average and first with 61 runs batted in. Second in that category are a pair of ORU teammates, Brent Williams and Matt Whatley, who earlier this week were sitting at 43 RBIs each. Williams also leads the league in home runs with 14, and Cummings had 12.
The Golden Eagles pitchers have also been stellar this season, with Miguel Ausua leading the league with nine wins, followed by teammates Josh McMinn and Justin McGregor each with eight wins. McMinn has a Summit League best 1.91 ERA, while Ausua is right behind at 2.19 with McGregor at 2.55. The Summit League saves leader is Kyler Stout with nine saves thus far.
Whatley, a junior catcher, has already been garnering a lot of attention from pro scouts. The Claremore native has twice this season been named Summit League player of the week, and has been on the official watch list for the 2017 Johnny Bench Award presented by BaseballSavings.com. The award is given annually to the top NCAA Division I catcher. Whatley was named to the list of semifinalists as a freshman in 2015 and has been a two-time All-Summit League First Team selection.
The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, whom will be announced May 17, 2017. Ballots will be sent to the national voting panel at the end of May for a vote to determine the three finalists. The finalists will be announced June 5, 2017. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be invited to attend the 20th Annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet on June 29, 2017, where the winner will be announced.
Other ORU players turning the eyes of the scouts are first baseman Williams (R-Sr.), outfielder Cummings (R-Jr.) outfielder Michael Hungate (Sr.) and outfielder Sam Grellner (Sr.).
ORU has had a great history of producing major league caliber players, and that trend has continued in recent years. There are seven former ORU players currently playing in minor league baseball, and former infielder Tyler Saladino has been on the Chicago White Sox roster since being called up on July 17, 2015.
The Summit League has more than 20 players currently playing pro ball at some level, so if you want to see some future major league prospects, head to the Summit League tournament at ORU next week. I’ll see you there.