SHREVEPORT, La. - It could not be a more fitting end of the regular season for eight seniors. In their final home games of their collegiate career, the Diamond Gents (22-13, 13-2 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference) welcome top-ranked Trinity (32-5, 13-2) to decide the SCAC Regular Season Championship and the top seed in the upcoming Conference Tournament.
The top seed is easy enough: The winner of the series between the Gents and Tigers will be the top seed in the SCAC Baseball Tournament next weekend. The loser of the series will be the second seed except in one scenario. If the Gents are swept and Texas Lutheran sweeps Austin College, the Bulldogs will move up to the second seed and Centenary will be the third seed.
Southwestern is currently fourth in the SCAC at 7-11. However, the Pirates are finished with conference play. If Austin College (currently 6-9) wins one game against Texas Lutheran, the 'Roos grab the final spot in the SCAC Tournament due to a series win against Southwestern.
1 Seed - Goes to the winner of the series between Centenary and Trinity
2 Seed - Goes to the loser of the series between Centenary and Trinity. However, if the Gents are swept and Texas Lutheran sweeps Austin College, Texas Lutheran will be the second seed
3 Seed - Texas Lutheran unless it sweeps Austin College and Centenary is swept by Trinity. If that occurs, Texas Lutheran is the second seed and Centenary is the third seed
4 Seed - Austin College if it wins at least one game against Texas Lutheran. If it is swept, Southwestern is the fourth seed.
We Have Been Here Before
In 2015, Centenary was in the exact same position they currently find themselves in: Hosting a nationally-ranked team with the winner of the series claiming the first seed in the SCAC Tournament.
However, there were two notable differences. First, it was Texas Lutheran who came to Shehee Stadium with the Bulldogs a game ahead of the Gents. Second, the series winner would host the Conference Tournament. Until the 2017 season, the SCAC Baseball Tournament was held at the regular season champion.
Centenary squeaked out a 5-4 win in game one against the Bulldogs thanks to then-freshman Cole Lavergne's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh in the first game of a doubleheader April 25, 2015. Centenary clinched at least a share of the 2015 title and hosting rights to the tournament with a 2-0 win in the nightcap.
In the series finale, the Diamond Gents polished off the series sweep of Texas Lutheran with a dominant, 4-hit win. Centenary scored six in the second and former Gent Kody Carson capped the win with a two-run shot in the fifth.
Diamond Gents Celebrate Final Home Games of Season
When Trinity and Centenary take the field Sunday afternoon for a possible SCAC Title on the line, it will be the final home game for eight seniors and a junior.
This class has been a part of more than 100 wins, two SCAC Regular Season Championships, an SCAC Tournament Championship, the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the program, and the first NCAA Tournament win in school history among all sports. They also feature 12 All-Conference Selections, eight All-Region honorees, six D3Baseball.com Team of the Week recognitions, five SCAC All-Tournament honors, two All-Americans, and one jump in the pool after a Conference Tournament Championship.
Junior Kahlil Wyatt is finishing up his third season with the Gents. An engineering major, Wyatt plans on attending Texas Tech to finish his civil engineering degree. His favorite memory as a Gent was jumping in the pool after Centenary won the 2017 SCAC Tournament Championship.
On the field, Wyatt is batting .500 with his first collegiate extra-base hit against Austin College this past weekend. He also has a pair of walks and two runs scored.
Entering the weekend, senior Jackie Allen holds a 9-8 record with two complete games, a save, and a 3.82 ERA. Transferring to Centenary in 2016, Allen has appeared in 42 games with 24 starts. An Honorable Mention All-Conference honoree the past two seasons, Allen had a two-game stretch to remember last year. In back-to-back weekends in the Gents 10-0 win against Schreiner and 8-0 win against Dallas, Allen allowed just eight hits with 14 strikeouts in 15 shutout innings.
Allen will graduate from Centenary with a bachelor's degree in business administration. His favorite memory is jumping in the pool following Centenary's SCAC Tournament Championship in 2017.
Senior Nicholas Delaneuville has appeared in 56 games for the Gents and is a lifetime .244 hitter with 21 hits, 12 runs scored, and 13 RBIs. This season, he has started 16 games. Against Southwestern earlier this season, a Gents walkoff win, his walk to lead off the ninth represented the eventual winning run against the Pirates in the bottom of the ninth.
A communications major, Delaneuville looks to graduate from Centenary and become a baseball coach. His favorite memory with Centenary baseball is simply being with this class all four years. He feels blessed and thankful that he will be able to call his classmates his best friends for the rest of his life.
Senior Ian Graham has had quite the career both on and off the field. A three-time Academic All-Conference honoree, he has been named to both the SCAC All-Conference and All-Tournament Teams in 2016 and 2017. He is also appeared on the SCAC Scholar's List each of the past three seasons.
A business major with a concentration in finance, Graham has been named by Centenary as a top business major graduate as well as appearing on the Dean's List every semester while at the College. Following graduation, Graham hopes to be in the finance department or front office of a major league baseball team.
His favorite memory, as with most seniors, is jumping in the pool at Airhog Stadium following the Gents 2017 SCAC Tournament Championship.
Senior Merek Holzrichter has appeared in 13 games on the mound for Centenary and has 10 strikeouts against only one walk in 11 innings pitched.
Holzrichter majors in business with a minor in communication. Following graduation, he hopes to work in business for a pro sports team. His favorite memory is his junior season when the Gents qualified for a Regional.
A three-time All-Conference performer, including First Team honors the past two seasons, senior Kaleb Kirk will graduate as the Gents NCAA Division III winningest pitcher. He enters the weekend tied for third in conference history with 30 wins. With 242 strikeouts, Kirk needs just two this weekend against Trinity to move into the top-10 in SCAC history in punchouts.
Kirk graduates with a 30-11 record with one save and a 2.63 ERA and nine complete games in 294.2 innings pitched. He currently sits fifth in conference history in ERA. Five times in his career, Kirk has garnered SCAC Pitcher of the Week honors, including at least once every season, and has been named to the D3Baseball.com Team of the Week three times during his career.
The three-time All-Region honoree was also named SCAC All-Tournament last season when he picked up a pair of wins in the 2017 SCAC Tournament. He also started Centenary's first NCAA Tournament game, going eight innings and allowing eight hits and one run while striking out five as the Gents beat Linfield, 12-1.
Kirk's favorite memory is Centenary qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
A geology major, Kirk received the Centenary's Estwing Award for his outstanding research. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master's degree in petroleum geology. In 2016, he appeared on the SCAC Scholar's list.
A starting first baseman all four years, Lavergne has been a regular on the mound the past two seasons for the Gents. Lavergne holds a 10-4 record and 13 saves and a 2.94 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 113.1 innings pitched. His eight saves ranked 14th in the nation for 2017, and his 13 career saves is tied for fifth most in the SCAC career annals.
From the plate, Lavergne has 141 hits with 110 runs scored, 92 RBIs, 27 doubles, seven home runs, and five triples. In a win against Rust last season, Lavergne hit both a traditional and an inside-the-park home run in back-to-back innings in a Gents win against Rust.
In 2017, Lavergne grabbed All-Conference recognition as both a first baseman and a relief pitcher. He also received two All-Region distinctions.
A business major, Lavergne plans on becoming a coach after graduation. His favorite memory with Centenary was being put in the unusual situation of being able to take the mound twice (earning a save) in Centenary's 19-10 win against East Texas Baptist.
Senior Connor Soblom served as an assistant coach this season after playing for the Gents the previous three years. In 28 games, Soblom recorded seven hits, nine runs scored, five RBIs, and two extra base hits.
In fact, his favorite memory is hitting his only collegiate home run in the top of the ninth of the Gents 12-2 victory against Southwestern last season. The win clinched an SCAC Regular Season title and the first seed in the SCAC Tournament.
Soblom was also a nominee for the Student-Worker of the Year at Centenary for the 2017-2018 school year.
A business administration major, Soblom plans on pursuing a job in the front office of a professional sports team.
The final player who will be recognized will be senior Chris Zapata. Zapata had a monster year for the Gents in 2017, leading the country in RBIs (71), leading the SCAC and finishing 10th in the nation with 12 home runs. He also caught all but 18 innings for the Gents that season.
For his spectacular junior season, Zapata was named a First Team All-American as a catcher by both the ABCA and D3Baseball.com. He also received First Team All-Region honors by both publications while being named the SCAC Player of the Year.
Named to the National Team of the Week on three different occasions by D3Baseball.com, Zapata grabbed three SCAC Player of the Week honors in 2017.
Zapata had quite the Championship Sunday at the SCAC Tournament in 2017. With a two-run home run in game one against Trinity, he broke the Diamond Gents single season RBI record. He followed that up in game two against Trinity with a first inning grand slam over the batter's eye in centerfield at Airhog Stadium to break the career record.
The 2015 SCAC Freshman of the Year comes into the weekend with a .343 career batting average with 214 hits, 163 RBIs, 114 runs scored, 49 doubles, 23 home runs and five triples. A sociology major with a minor in Spanish, Zapata plans to join the FBI after graduation.
His favorite memory with the Gents is jumping in the pool with the coaches after the SCAC Tournament Championship in 2017.
Following the series with Trinity, Centenary will either be the one, two, or three seed at the upcoming SCAC Baseball Tournament May 4-6, which will be played at The Depot in Cleburne, Texas.