The Hawks (23-30) secured the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field after compiling an 8-13 record in SSAC play. Southern Poly (45-9), ranked No. 18 in the latest NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll, occupies the No. 3 seed courtesy of a 14-7 league mark.
Shorter enters tournament play having lost eight of its last nine, but a 10-6 win over 16th-ranked Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., in the regular season finale may give the Hawks the momentum they need to pull a potential first round upset in the double-elimination format.
Hawks’ ace Tim Day was the winner in Friday’s victory over Faulkner and figures to be the probable starter on Thursday against the Hornets. Day (7-3, 4.37 ERA) was the winning pitcher in Shorter’s 8-3 upset of then No. 4-ranked Southern Poly in Marietta back on March 27.
The junior from Australia has been a giant killer this season, earning victories against three ranked SSAC opponents – Faulkner, Southern Poly and No. 23 Brewton-Parker.
Shorter dropped two of three to Southern Poly this season and in addition to reliable pitching, Shorter will need strong performances from its big three of Matt Johnson, Shannon Houston and Kurtis Robinson at the plate.
Johnson leads the SSAC in batting, boasting a .441 average, and paces Shorter in both doubles (20) and RBI (51).
Houston is the Hawks’ leading power hitter with eight homers. He is batting .326 with 13 doubles and 48 runs batted in.
The switch-hitting Robinson gives the Hawks three players with at least 40 RBI. His .351 batting average is second-best on the Hawks’ roster among players with at least 30 at-bats and Robinson has added 10 two-baggers and five home runs.
A Shorter victory on Thursday would mean that the Hawks would play the winner of the matchup between No. 2-seed Faulkner (38-17) and seventh-seeded Southern Wesleyan University (7-40). That contest would take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 30. If the Hawks drop their date with Southern Poly, they would play at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Lee University (42-10) is the top-seed in the tournament and will face off against No. 8-seed Emmanuel College (10-41) in the first round at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Fourth-seeded Brewton-Parker College (34-15) and fifth-seeded Auburn University-Montgomery (25-22) will open the tournament with a 10 a.m. scheduled start.