Wildcats Qualify for National Tournament in Kansas City
Before a pro-Baker crowd proudly sporting orange, the Baker University men’s basketball team played on March 14 at the NAIA tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. Until mid-March, the Wildcats hadn’t played in the national tournament since 1941.
“I was really happy for our players,” said Brett Ballard, guiding the Wildcats to the national tournament in his second season as head coach. “We had a strong crowd of Baker alums in the Kansas City area out there supporting us.”
In the first round, the Wildcats lost 103-88 to No. 7 seed Our Lady of the Lake from San Antonio. Baker led 21-6 midway through the first half before the Saints rallied to take a 44-42 lead at halftime.
“OLLU’s goal is to get you to lose your poise with the pressure they put on you,” Ballard told the Kansas City Star after the game. “Mentally we never put our heads down. That’s how we’ve been all year long, and that why we’ve succeeded.”
The Wildcats finished 21-12 overall and 12-6 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, placing third in the regular season and second in the postseason tournament.
No. 1 in Scholar-Athletes
Baker University’s fall athletes epitomized the student-athlete. Baker ranked No. 1 in the NAIA with 28 NAIA Scholar-Athletes in fall 2011. To be recognized, athletes must be nominated by their head coach, have at least a 3.5 grade-point average and be of junior or senior academic status.
Wrestlers Place 11th at Nationals, claim Kansas Cup
In just its third year, Baker’s wrestling program has developed into a national powerhouse. The Wildcats placed 11th at the NAIA wrestling national championship in early March in Des Moines, Iowa, as all 12 of the Baker qualifiers scored points.
Four BU wrestlers earned All-America honors, highlighted by Brandon Gebhardt reaching the finals in the 285-pound weight class. At 149 pounds, Jarell Price battled back to place fifth to receive All-America recognition. Robert Shadrach and Jarid Price squared off in the 184 pound wrestlebacks with seventh- and eighth-place finishes to join his teammates as All-Americans.
In January, Baker captured the Kansas Cup at the Collins Center by winning the tournament featuring all the other Kansas schools that offer collegiate wrestling.
“I was so proud of our team’s effort throughout the season,” Baker wrestling coach Jimmy May said. “We really wrestled our best when it mattered the most at the national championships.”
Track Teams Shine During Indoor Season
Baker University sophomores Stephanie Nelson and Katie Thurbon placed seventh and eighth, respectively, at the 2012 NAIA indoor track and field national championships in Geneva, Ohio, to receive All-America honors. Nelson finished seventh in the women’s shot put, and Thurbon eighth in the pole vault.
Before the national meet, Baker’s men’s and women’s teams both won the Heart of America Athletic Conference indoor championships in Lamoni, Iowa. Baker junior Jeremy Gathright placed first in the triple jump and long jump to earn most outstanding performer honors. Thurbon placed first in the women’s pole vault, and Tyler Sloan added a first-place finish in the 60-meter dash.
Zach Kindler was named HAAC coach of the year for guiding both teams to titles.
Fall Sports Dominated Headlines in 2011
Baker University’s fall sports teams excelled in the conference and nationally in 2011.
Four sports—men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s cross country—captured regular-season conference titles, with the women’s soccer team also claiming the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament title.
The men’s highly ranked soccer team, coached by Nate Houser, ’94, reached the national semifinals for the first time in school history. He also guided the women’s soccer team to the national quarterfinals a year after guiding the squad to the national semifinals. The men’s cross country team placed 25th at the NAIA national championships.
Several Wildcat athletes and coaches were recognized after the season for their successes. Baker had 50 athletes named to all-HAAC teams, 15 honored as HAAC players of the week, and five selected as HAAC players of the year. Two Baker coaches were honored as HAAC coach of the year and one was named regional coach of the year.