State Colleges

April 18, 2014

Standiford, Tabor eye NAIA baseball elite

If you’re dealing in facts, Tabor baseball coach Mark Standiford is your guy.

If you’re dealing in facts, Tabor baseball coach Mark Standiford is your guy.

A third straight KCAC title won’t be good enough. Winning the KCAC tournament won’t be good enough.

What will be is a trip to Lewiston, Idaho, for the NAIA World Series at the end of May.

“It’s fair to say if we don’t make it that it’s a failure,” Standiford said. “That’s one of our main focuses and the many steps along the way have been toward that ultimate goal. And big picture, our goal is to go to Lewiston.”

The Bluejays have done everything they can to prepare for that shot, which is rapidly approaching as No. 14 Tabor (37-10, 18-4 KCAC) has six regular-season games left and a three-game lead over No. 24 Sterling.

The Bluejays play a doubleheader against third-place Bethany (19-25, 11-11) on Saturday in Hillsboro.

Tabor has come close to making it to Lewiston the last two seasons, losing to eventual NAIA runnerup Rogers State in 2012 in the regional championship and to San Diego Christian College last season, also in regional play.

Along the way, they had to watch rival Sterling become the first KCAC team to make it to the World Series.

“We want our conference to look good, so what Sterling did, with our scholarship level being below a lot of other teams that make it which makes it difficult to compete,” Standiford said. “I thought it did a lot for the league’s reputation nationally.”

The Bluejays are led by senior outfielder Kirk Rocha, an All-KCAC pick last season from Merced (Calif.) Community College — one of four Merced players on the roster — sophomore pitcher Jacob Webb and senior pitcher Junior Mustain.

Rocha is second in the KCAC with a .452 batting average and leads the league in hits (70) and stolen bases (27).

“(Rocha) is as close to a five-tool guy as I’ve had,” said Standiford, who is Wichita State’s career home-run leader and in his sixth season at Tabor. “He can hit for power, for average and has a great arm in the outfield. He was great last season, but he’s been special this year.”

Standiford said Webb and Mustain are considered the Bluejays’ No. 1. Webb is 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA in 68 2/3 innings and leads the KCAC with 93 strikeouts. Mustain is 8-2 with a 1.48 ERA.

“Our depth is OK, but our front-line guys are as good as anybody,” Standiford said. “Webb is going to get drafted, he’ll get a chance on the next level. He’s touched 94 (mph) and he’s got a lot of different pitches. I think Mustain could also get a shot professionally.”

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