By Bryan Bloodworth
BLOOMINGTON – Despite a No. 18 national ranking and a 29-10 record, Illinois Wesleyan University baseball coach Dennis Martel isn’t resting easy when it comes to his team making the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not confident that we are going to get in,” said Martel on the eve of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament that begins Thursday on the IWU campus at Hoernberger Field.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job, but I told the team we need at least one more win to secure it. Win that first game and I’ll feel a lot better or win just one game in the tournament and I’ll feel a lot better about getting in.
“There are a lot of teams sitting out there with 29, 30 and 31 wins. If we go 0-2, then we’ve lost four of our last five and that’s not very good.”
The Titans, winners of the regular-season championship with an 18-3 record, open tournament play against No. 4 seed Wheaton at 3 p.m. Thursday. Wheaton has a 14-25 overall record and was 10-11 in the conference.
No. 2 seed Augustana (29-8) faces No. 3 North Park (20-19) in the other game. The double-elimination tournament concludes Saturday with an 11 a.m. championship game.
Martel said the tournament is wide open despite the records of some of the teams.
“If you look back at the scores, there were a lot of 5-4 and 4-3 type games,” said Martel. “Our team has found ways to win. Our pitching has been tremendous and our defense has been outstanding.
“The one thing that’s really been disappointing is our hitting. It hasn’t been as good as I thought it would be. I thought we would score 8 or 9 runs a game this year.”
The Titans are making their 10th straight appearance in the CCIW Tournament. The winner of the event receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 15.
“If we win the conference tournament, we’ll probably stay in our region and play at Augustana,” said Martel. “If we don’t win it, I’m guessing we’ll be sent to Tennessee like last year.”
Tickets for the tournament are $6 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students, and free for those 10 and under. Admission also is free for students from CCIW schools with ID. No passes will be accepted.
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org