June 4, 2014

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Former John A. Logan College infielder/pitcher Matt Bowles drew a bases-loaded walk in the 12th inning last week, breaking a 2-2 tie and eventually giving the University of Southern Indiana a 3-2 win over Colorado Mesa in the final game of the Division II Baseball Championship held in Cary, N.C.

The national title is USI’s second in baseball. The Screaming Eagles finished 49-13 overall. The other title came in 2010. Former Volunteer, Todd Martin, was a member of that ballclub.

“Winning the championship still hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Bowles, a senior graduating with a degree in sports management and minor in business administration. “It’s just like we won another game, another tournament, not a national championship. As a senior, I couldn’t imagine a better way to go out.”

A native of Mount Washington, Ky., Bowles played his freshman and sophomore seasons at JALC in the spring of 2011 and 2012. Both years, the Vols won the Region 24 championship and advanced to the title game of the District tournament, only to fall to national powerhouse, Iowa Western each time, one game shy of the JUCO World Series.

“To get so close at Logan, but not make it to the World Series was frustrating and makes winning this championship even more special,” Bowles said.

The senior started 36 games as an infielder, shifting from shortstop to third. He batted .235 with 20 hits in 85 at bats, including four doubles and two triples. He drove in eight and scored 16. As a rigthhanded pitcher, he was even more valuable to the team, posting a 9-4 overall record with a 3.18 earned-run average. He struck out 52 and walked 15 in 90 2/3 innings.

“Winning the championship was simply a complete team effort,” Bowles said. “Everyone on the roster contributed in one way or another. We all knew what our roles were with the team and executed those roles. No matter who was in the lineup, we supported one another.”

Bowles was selected Second Team Great Lakes Valley All-Conference and All-Region for his mound work.

“My success here at USI wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the time I spent at Logan,” he said. “I learned a lot my first two years. My work there helped to make the transition here much smoother.”

Bowles said he will be attending graduate school at Louisville this summer, where he plans to earn his master’s degree in sports administration.

Teammate and close friend, Tyler Mikrut, was a redshirt junior on the USI team, meaning that he was granted an additional year of eligibility for medical reasons. He suffered a hand/wrist injury at Logan his sophomore year, which cost him nearly the entire season.

After two years at Logan (2011 and 2012), Mikrut transferred to Southeast Missouri State University for one year and then moved on to USI this past fall.

“Transferring here from SEMO definitely turned out to be a good decision for me,” said the Edwardsville native. “What an unbelievably surreal feeling to win a national championship. There was such great team chemistry. It means a lot to me that I get to share this feeling with my good friend, Matt. We’ve been roommates since my freshman year at Logan. We knew we were a talented team and talked about making a run at a title from Day 1 last fall.”

Mikrut battled injuries again this spring – this time a hamstring strain. He started only 22 games for the Screaming Eagles and batted a solid .293 with 24 hits in 82 at bats. He had seven doubles and drove in 12 with a .370 on-base percentage.

“I’m still learning the game and it is my hope that I can stay healthy next year so that I can make an impact with the team,” Mikrut said. “I still feel like I haven’t made my mark on the game and want to help USI make it back to the Championships again next spring.”

Mikrut, who is majoring in marketing, said he also owes a debt of gratitude to Vols head coach Jerry Halstead, current assistant, Kyle Surprenant, and former assistant, Todd Poe.

“They all taught me a lot about the game,” he said.

Mikrut said he plans to play ball this summer to sharpen his skills for this fall, his fifth and final year of collegiate baseball.

“I’m just glad I came to USI,” he said. “We have such great support from the university, alumni, boosters and entire Evansville-area community. The mayor proclaimed USI Baseball Day in the city earlier this week and fire trucks took us through town and back to the campus. It was a great experience.”

Halstead said he was proud of his two former players.

“I’m very happy to see that Matt and Tyler have continued success at the next level,” he said. “Both were outstanding students and solid contributors on Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region 24 championship teams while at Logan. I wish them only the best in their future endeavors.”