The Thomas baseball bunch all but wrapped up a spot in the Sun Conference Tournament with a pair of wins during a three-game series with NAIA No. 24 Southeastern on Sunday and Monday.
TU coach Mike Lee said no team has ever notched 13 or more conference wins and not qualified. The Night Hawks now have 14 after Monday’s 15-3 win.
Lee said he had an inkling of the postseason lock after splitting Sunday’s doubleheader, but that he refrained from telling players until the conclusion of the series.
“I just didn’t want to possibly distract the guys and risk complacency,” he said. “Mathematically, there are a whole bunch of scenarios that could play out, but we feel like we locked up a spot.”
Six of the ten Sun Conference teams qualify for the postseason tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. Thomas has already made hotel reservations for the weekend of May 2 to participate.
This will be the Night Hawks’ first appearance after joining the Sun Conference in 2012 , and failing to qualify last year by a half game.
Thomas (20-16, 14-7) secured the Monday win behind a stout offensive attack that accounted for 15 runs on 14 hits. The Night Hawks also capitalized on nine free base runners with five walks and four hit batters.
Justin Hicks, the emerging pitching threat for Thomas, earned the win from the mound with a six inning performance that consisted of eight hits allowed and three earned runs.
Hicks, who impressed Lee after a road win over Southern Polytechnic on Feb. 25, has now pitched 36.2 innings in 11 games this year and has a team-low 1.23 ERA.
“He might not have had his best game – he wasn’t real efficient with his pitch count, but that shows his improvement to hold them to just three runs,” Lee said of Hicks. “He kept it to a smaller number than it could’ve been. We had a couple of really good innings at the plate, and he came back and shut guys down after. That’s the kind of response we need when we’ve got a lead.”