Starting Friday, the Marietta College baseball team will be looking to add on to the record books, as they look to win the program's sixth national championship.
The Pioneers already have the most championships in NCAA Division III baseball, after winning their fifth last season.
Marietta lost only four seniors from last year's team, so the roster still consists of most of the talent and experience it had last year. And being the number one ranked team in the nation and the only team in the championship bracket to have eclipsed the 40-win mark this season, one would have to think the Etta Express is the clear favorite to win it all.
However, if you look at the numbers, Brian Brewer's squad does have a tall order in front of them. The bats will have to be out in full force, as the pitching staffs for Kean and SUNY Cortland each led the country with a 2.15 earned run average.
It's hard to imagine a rotation as deep as Marietta's, which posted a 2.31 ERA itself, being outdueled, but the Pioneers really haven't seen pitchers like this yet this season.
On the other side of the ball, Aurora and SUNY Cortland are each in the top five in runs scored this season. Aurora scored 399, while SUNY Cortland, the 2010 runners up, put 381 runs across. Those are both more runs than any team the Pioneers have faced this season have scored, so that will surely be a tough new challenge for the last two National Pitchers of the Year in Brian Gasser and Austin Blaski.
In the event that runners are able to get on against the Pios, catcher Alex Toth will have to bring his "A" game, as Aurora, Webster and Wheaton are all in the top 20 in the nation in stolen bases.
The World Series will also feature top notch defense, as St. Thomas, the 2009 champions, is first in the country in fielding percentage, while Wheaton, SUNY Cortland, Whitworth and Kean are all in the top 20.
Basically what I am trying to point out is that these teams aren't in the World Series for nothing. They have all earned their spot and will fight and claw as hard as they can to come out victorious.
Having said that, although it won't be a cakewalk by any means for MC, they are number one for a reason. They match up extremely well in all phases of the game.
On offense, they were fifth in the nation in hits and sixth in runs scored. Individually, All- American shortstop Tim Saunders was first in runs with 74 and second in hits with 83.
On the bump, Marietta's 2.31 ERA was third in the country right behind Kean and SUNY Cortland. Blaski's .93 ERA is third overall and his 12 victories are second.
The Pioneers' .974 team fielding percentage is tied for second in the nation, and on the basepaths, Saunders' 40 stolen bases is tied for seventh.
In their quest for the sixth championship in school history, it doesn't look like Marietta will be overmatched in any element.
Now, you cannot win a conference as tough as the OAC, or a region as stacked as the Mideast without having seen some very talented competition.
But this is the World Series, the highest level competition that anyone will face. Everyone at this point has put up good statistics, which is why you can throw all numbers and odds out the window.
In Grande Chute, Wis., the team with the most heart, desire and will to win will usually come out on top. That is the thing I like most about this Pioneer team. As much as they have already accomplised, they are as hungry and motivated as ever. I think that is what will separate them from the other teams.
And that is why, I believe, they will be bringing a sixth national championship banner to Don Schaly Stadium.
Jordan Holland is a Marietta Times sports reporter and can be reached at 376-5449