Summit League Preview
Oral Roberts outfielder Noah Cummings
Team to Beat: Oral Roberts.
It should be no surprise to see the Golden Eagles here, given their historical dominance in the league. Outside of its two-year stint in the Southland Conference from 2013-14, ORU has won or shared the Summit regular season title every season since joining in 1998—and that includes last season’s 43-16 (25-4 Summit) showing. The Golden Eagles boast depth and experience at nearly every person and return both Summit League player of the year Noah Cummings (.321/.378/.567, 15 HR, 70 RBI) and pitcher of the year Miguel Ausua (11-3, 1.65). ORU’s only glaring hole is at catcher, a void left by the departure of three-year starter Matt Whatley (third round, Rangers), but freshman backstop Brody Gibson should have the skill set necessary to hold his own. While Cummings and Ausua are the stars from last season, they’ll have a strong supporting cast around them. Veteran second baseman Nick Roark (.307/.418/.404) and third baseman Cal Hernandez (.299/.376/.360) lengthen the lineup, and projected Friday starter Josh McMinn (9-3, 2.47) has drawn pro interest with his three-pitch mix and 88-92 mph fastball.
Player of the Year: Noah Cummings, OF, Oral Roberts.
Initially a walk-on at ORU, Cummings has quickly blossomed into one of the most feared hitters in the conference. Cummings led the league in hitting in 2016 and followed that up by winning player of the year in 2017 despite the passing of his father just two weeks before the start of the season. A powerful bat in the middle of the ORU order, Cummings is coming off a 15-homer, 70-RBI season and will look to repeat as the conference’s top player.
Pitcher of the Year: Miguel Ausua, lhp, Oral Roberts.
The reigning pitcher of the year, Ausua will try for an encore his senior season. The lefty flummoxed Summit League hitters last year, commanding an 88-91 mph fastball from a low slot while mixing in a sweeping breaking ball and changeup. He struck out 85 in 92.2 innings and tossed a complete-game shutout last season and is one of several quality arms on the ORU pitching staff.
Freshman of the Year: A.J. Archambo, of, Oral Roberts.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder was a three-sport star at Bartlesville (Okla.) High—including a 16-touchdown, 1,143-yard season as a senior receiver—before deciding to narrow his focus to baseball at ORU. While raw, Archambo put together a strong fall and has the tools and physical ability to be an impact player for the Golden Eagles. He projects to start in an outfield corner right away.
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South Dakota State could be the team with the best chance to unseat Oral Roberts. Coming off a 22-24 (18-12 Summit) season a year ago, the Jackrabbits return a strong veteran nucleus, including senior shortstop Tony Kjolsing (.291/.350/.445) and powerful third baseman Newt Johnson (.302/.386/.432). Righthander Brady Moxham, a junior college transfer, throws a heavy 88-92 mph sinker with an above-average changeup and should be a force on Friday nights.
North Dakota State finished second in the conference last season, going 19-11 (28-25) overall, but suffered key losses on the mound with the graduation of righthanders Luke Lind and Reed Pfannenstein. They’ll have to replace the nearly 200 innings those arms provided a year ago, but the Bison do have some returning experience in the back end of the bullpen in seniors Kevin Folman (4-1, 2.70, 8 SV) and Chris Choles (4-3, 3.07, 4 SV).
Tournament: Four teams, double-elimination. May 23-26 at Johnson Stadium in Tulsa, Okla.
Top 10 2018 Draft Prospects
1. Josh McMinn, rhp, Oral Roberts
2. Miguel Ausua, lhp, Oral Roberts
3. Brady Moxham, rhp, South Dakota State
4. Tony Kjolsing, ss, South Dakota State
5. Noah Cummings, of, Oral Roberts
6. Drue Galassi, of, Western Illinois
7. Ian Koch, rhp, Western Illinois
8. Newt Johnson, 3b, South Dakota State
9. Taylor Varnell, lhp, Oral Roberts
10. Nick Roark, 2b, Oral Roberts