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Baseball - Wed, Apr. 19, 2017
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The Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) announced its 2017 Baseball Tournament qualifiers for the upcoming conference championship on Tuesday afternoon.  The 2017 tournament will be held May 6-8 at the Grizzly Baseball Complex on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga.

The five teams that qualified for the 2017 championship tournament include 2016 champion Georgia Gwinnett, Talladega (Ala.), Edward Waters (Fla.), College of the Ozarks (Mo.), and Fisher (Mass.).

To date, Georgia Gwinnett is the 14th-ranked team in the NAIA and carries a 31-16 record through 47 games.  The Grizzlies are led by junior Marcus McCorkle and senior Jean Figueroa at the plate while senior Tyler Souris and junior Stone Kelly have dominated the mound for GGC.  McCorkle has driven in an A.I.I.-best 47 runs on 60 hits while carrying a .377 batting average.  Figueroa has been a mainstay for the Grizzlies in the outfield, leading the squad with 67 hits in 166 at-bats (.404).   Souris carries a 6-1 record in the starter role while Kelly has been a dominant reliever for GGC with a 4-0 record and 1.03 ERA.  The Grizzlies are undefeated against fellow A.I.I. programs in 2017, sweeping Talladega in their two-game series.

Talladega enters with a 27-18 showing through 45 games in 2017.  Starting pitcher Kyle Chavez has carried the Tornadoes, recording a 9-4 record in 14 appearances while posting a 2.32 ERA and striking out a squad-best 84 batters.  Both Brondick Johnson (.381) and Wilkin Louis (.357) have provided Talladega with consistent hitting as the duo has combined for 80 hits, 50 RBIs, 68 runs scored, 10 doubles, four triples, and five home runs.

Through 46 games, Edward Waters is 29-17 and has outscored its opponents 248-185.  As a unit, the Tigers are batting .299 and have collected 396 hits while accumulating 212 RBIs.  On the mound, EWC is led by Richard Edwards who has posted a 9-2 record in 13 appearances while also picking up a save.  The hurler has struck out 24 batters in 77.1 innings of work and has given up 23 runs, 21 earned.  At the plate, the Tigers are led by Miguel Beltre.  Beltre has a .381 batting average and has driven in 30 runs on 56 hits.  Currently, Edward Waters is 1-1 against A.I.I. members and has a four-game set against Voorhees (S.C.) and three-game set against Talladega to close out the 2017 regular season.

College of the Ozarks holds a 22-17 record in 39 games this season and has posted a .295 team batting average, collecting 313 hits in 1,061 at-bats.  Alex Stephens has been the Bobcats' ace, carrying a 3.70 ERA and a 6-4 record on the mound.  Through 73.0 innings of work, Stephens has struck out 30 batters while walking 11 batters.  Jesse Fisher leads the Bobcats with a .404 batting average, driving in 21 runs on 36 hits.  The right-hander has a team-best .451 slugging percentage and is accountable for 40 of Ozarks' 194 runs.

Fisher rounds out the 2017 A.I.I. baseball tournament field with a 24-18 record.  In 2017, the Falcons have picked up key wins against Point Park (Pa.), Alfred State (N.Y.), and Penn State Brandywine (Pa.).  Angel Perez Vargas leads Fisher with a .407 batting average and 31 RBIs on 48 hits.  Zach Leblanc has been a mainstay on the mound for the Falcons, carrying a 5-1 record in nine appearances while posting a 2.68 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 40.1 innings of work.

The A.I.I. tournament seeds will be announced on Friday, April 28.