It didn't take long for the Oral Roberts baseball team to retake its spot at the top of The Summit League once again. Two years removed from 15-straight NCAA appearances, the Golden Eagles dominated league action with a 25-5 mark on their way to a 41-16 overall record.
Challenged with one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the nation with 15 games against teams with an RPI in the top-100, ORU put together one of its most masterful regular seasons in recent history. The Golden Eagles faired especially well against the Big 12, finishing the year 5-1 against the power conference after defeating Oklahoma, No. 12 Texas Tech and No. 10 Oklahoma State on the road, ORU also took down the Cowboys and Red Raiders at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
The Golden Eagles only lost two midweek games all season thanks in part to their offensive prowess. Throughout the regular season, ORU was among the nation leaders in several statistical categories.
The team finished second in the nation with a .320 batting average, fifth in on base-percentage (.406) and 11th in scoring with 7.3 runs per game. On the other side of the ball, the Golden Eagles were solid as well. The pitching staff was among national leaders in limiting base runners with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.81 which ranked 18th in the country while the team put together seven shutouts on the year to put them at 12th nationally.
The squad put together four winning streaks of six games or more throughout the regular season with a season long streak of nine wins coming from Mar. 20-Apr. 3. From Mar. 20 to Apr. 18, the team fell in just one game, going 17-1 during the month long stretch. Overall, ORU swept nine opponents on the year including: Oklahoma State, Arkansas-Little Rock, SIU-Edwardsville, Omaha (2x), IPFW (2x) and Western Illinois (2x).
SUMMIT LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP
The Golden Eagles capped off their return to The Summit League with their league record 16th Championship to earn the League's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament after defeating IPFW in the title game, 6-0. The Golden Eagles improved to 52-2 all-time in The Summit League postseason tournament.
For the 25th time in program history and the first time since the 2012 campaign, the Golden Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament. ORU was matched up with perineal powerhouses in Arkansas and regional host Oklahoma State while Big East Champions St. John's joined them in Stillwater.
Oral Roberts was tabbed a No. 3 seed in the regional which set up a tournament opening game against No. 2 seeded Arkansas. A three-run home run in the ninth inning by Anthony Sequeira brought the Golden Eagles within two runs, but Arkansas was able to hold off ORU to secure the win. The following day, Oral Roberts would fall to St. John's to end its season.
Both Sequeira and freshman Matt Whatley were named to the Stillwater Region All-Tournament Team for their performances. Whatley powered the team with a .600 average, going 6-for-10 including a double. He also scored three times and stole a base. Sequeira, a two-way player for the Golden Eagles finished with four RBI in his two games. The Petaluma, Calif. native pulled ORU within two runs in the ninth inning after a three-run home run off the scoreboard in the teams opening game against Arkansas. Sequeira also pitched two and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball in the finale against St. John's, striking out two.
Sequeira and Whatley each headlined the Golden Eagles on the national stage by raking in postseason awards. Sequeira picked up second-team Louisville Slugger All-America honors from Louisville Slugger as well as third-team All-American accolades as a utility player from the American Baseball Coaches Association. Sequeira led the team offensively with 11 homers to go along with a .341 batting average. After proving himself as an offensive threat, the Petaluma, Calif. native also excelled on the mound for the Golden Eagles, leading the league with 11 saves. Sequeira boasted an ERA of 1.38 in 32.2 innings of work. He finished the year in the top-10 in The Summit League in hits (73), doubles (20) and walks (29). The senior two-way man was also named as a finalist for the prestigious John Olerud Award, given to the nation's top two-way player.
Whatley became the14th Golden Eagle to earn Freshman All-America honors and the first to do so since 2012 when Jose Trevino earned the honor. He was tabbed a Freshman All-American by four publications including Perfect Game USA, Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball.com and Baseball America. Whatley led ORU in hitting with a .355 average earning Summit League Newcomer of the Year honors and First Team All-Summit League accolades at catcher. His 44 RBI were second most among the Golden Eagles and finished the season with a .528 slugging percentage and .437 on base percentage. He also led ORU with 56 runs scored which also ranked in the top-50 nationally adding, three triples and 16 stolen bases.
For the sixth time in program history, the Golden Eagles swept the postseason awards in The Summit League. Sequeira was named the League's Player of the Year while junior Xavier Altamirano was named the Pitcher of the Year. Whatley earned Newcomer of the Year honors for his work behind the plate while third-year head coach Ryan Folmar was named Coach of the Year.
ORU dominated The Summit League First Team All-League with nine student-athletes taking 14 available spots.
Joining Altamirano and Sequeira with First-Team honors on the mound was Guillermo Trujillo after the right-hander posted a 9-3 record and 4.07 ERA. The junior held opponents at bay with a .253 batting average while striking out 65.
Audie Afenir, Matt Brandy and Chase Stafford round out the infield first team for the Golden Eagles. Afenir, a senior finished the regular season with the third-best average on the team at .343 with 16 doubles, a triple and two home runs to go along with 39 RBI.
Brandy was a staple at second base for ORU all season, starting all 52 games. Of his 61 hits, 15 went for extra bases as he doubled 10 times and homered five times for a .437 slugging percentage. Brandy also led the team after drawing 41 walks on the year.
Stafford notched a .311 batting average on the season as he drove in 32 RBI. The junior boasted a .459 slugging percentage while drawing 30 walks for a .444 on-base percentage.
Senior Derrian James was the lone Golden Eagle to earn conference honors in the outfield. James appeared in 50 games throughout the year and hit at a clip of .326. He led the team with 17 doubles while connecting for five homers. The Port Arthur, Texas native stole 10-of-12 bases. James was also named to The Summit League's All-Academic Team.
Five Golden Eagles were selected in the MLB First Year Player Draft this spring. Sequeira was drafted in the 23rd round (Pick: 684) by the Phillies; Audie Afenir was taken by the Yankees in the 25th round (Pick: 753); Xavier Altamirano went in the 27th round (Pick: 818) to the Athletics; Guillermo Trujillo went to the Orioles in the 35th round (Pick: 1063) while senior Jacob McDavid was selected with the final pick of the draft (Pick: 1215) by the Angels. This year's class was the largest since 2009 when six Golden Eagles were taken.