Photos provided by Wabash College <br>
Wabash College freshman Chris Deig (left) and senio pitcher Mike Korfhagen (right) will compete in their first conference tournament this weekend.
Photos provided by Wabash College
Wabash College freshman Chris Deig (left) and senio pitcher Mike Korfhagen (right) will compete in their first conference tournament this weekend.
Ask Jake Thomas whether he's nervous heading into his first North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament game and he'll tell you an interesting fact.

In his entire college career, he's never had that anxious feeling.

Wabash College's senior outfielder and the rest of his teammates follow a relaxed approach.

And it's that kind of loosey-goosey mentality they hope will lead them to a deep tournament run.

"I don't think we've ever been [nervous] when we played. We strive off of our goofy mentality," said Thomas, who has a single-season record 62 hits this year. "I've never seen this program ever play nervous. You might see us overaggressive, but you don't see us miss ground balls because we're too tight. We're extremely laid back. We know this is a game and that it's fun to play. We want to do well but have a good time."

Wabash makes its first North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament appearance this weekend. The top two teams from each division make the conference tournament.

Wabash tied for the regular-season NCAC West Division title with Ohio Wesleyan, but earned the second seed after losing a second tiebreaker (head-to-head wins against conference opponents) to the Battling Bishops.

Wabash (22-17, 11-5 NCAC West) travels to the conference's top overall seed and No. 11-ranked Wooster (31-7, 13-3 NCAC East) in the tournament semifinals.

Kenyon (22-18, 12-4 NCAC East) will play at Ohio Wesleyan (23-14, 11-5 NCAC West) in the other semifinal.

The teams will play a best two-out-of-three game series, with two nine-inning games Saturday and one, if necessary, on Sunday.

Wabash has won four of its last five games, including a 3-2 victory in the second game of a Wednesday doubleheader over in-state rival DePauw University in its final regular-season game.

With the win, the Little Giants finally ended a 10-year, 19-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Now, though, they turn their attention to conference rival Wooster.

Wooster has won 11 conference titles and participated in every tournament since the league was founded. The Scots have won five straight games and seven of their last eight.

Wooster leads the conference in team batting average (.353) and boasts the league's hits and home run leaders.

Senior centerfielder Sean Karpen leads the conference in hits (70) and runs scored (56) and ranks second in batting average (.452).

Junior first baseman Matt Groez tops the league in home runs (8) and ranks first on the Scots in RBI (55) and second in hitting with a .410 batting average.

If there's one thing Wabash College coach Cory Stevens is concerned about it's trying to shut down the Scots' offense.

"Wooster has always been known as a very explosive offensive team," Stevens said. "If we keep their bats under control, then we should be allright."

Stevens will follow the same pitching rotation they have throughout most of this season, with one small adjustment.

He'll go with seniors Andy Weeks (2-2, 3.93 ERA) and Mike Korfhagen (4-3, 5.59 ERA) for the first two games and sophomore Brian Van Duyn (3-3, 5.15 ERA) in the third game.

But the most important player in this series could be freshman pitcher and 2008 Crawfordsville High School graduate Andrew Swart.

Normally the team's fourth starter, Swart (4-1, 4.10 ERA, 26 strikeouts) will come out of the bullpen this weekend.

And Stevens said he'll be used as much as they need him Saturday.

"It almost makes him more important than being that third starter because we're not going to wait to use him," Stevens said. "We need a middle reliever and that's what Andrew will be for us."

Stevens and Thomas aren't worried about having to face the conference's top seed at all. They've never been here before, so there's no pressure on them.

Plus, when the Little Giants have needed a conference victory this year, they've gotten one. They split the series against Ohio Wesleyan, beat Denison three times and split with Wittenberg last weekend - winning the key second game which put them into the postseason tournament.

Thomas also remembers when Wabash played Wooster two years ago, when they handed the then-No. 1 Scots (27-0) their first loss of the season.

"We beat Wooster when they were 27-0 two years ago," Thomas said. "We know we can do it. We beat their place. There's a sense that we know we can do this."