Air Force baseball will learn its postseason destination on Memorial Day.
The Falcons, having completed a three-game run to a Mountain West tournament championship, will draw the conference’s automatic bid into an NCAA Regional which will be announced at 10 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
The 64-team field starts with four-team double-elimination regionals played June 3 through 6, with each sending one team to super regionals in the same format from June 10 through 13.
Air Force baseball finishes off perfect run through Mountain West tournament, claiming first title
“It’s very surreal to be moving on and to play baseball into June,” said coach Mike Kazlausky, who in his 11 years at the helm has led Air Force (30-27) to all four of the program’s winning records it has posted since 1995 and now will take the team to its first NCAA appearance since 1969. “I’m very excited.”
The past few days have been a whirlwind for the team. Graduation at the academy was held on Wednesday, with eight baseball players receiving their commissioning as well as Kazlausky’s daughter.
“This was the bonus,” Kazlausky said of the three games in San Diego that followed.
There were three victories – Thursday over top-seeded UNLV, Friday over San Jose State and then Saturday in the clincher again vs. the Spartans.
Air Force put up 20 runs in the three games, continuing its season-long pattern as one of the nation’s top 15 offenses. But what made the difference was the starting pitching, as Paul Skenes, Doyle Gehring and Dylan Rogers combined to go 3-0 while throwing 21⅔ innings with a 1.25 ERA, 31 strikeouts and six walks.
Air Force outscored opponents by 17 runs while they were on the mound.
“I think throughout the year we knew we were good,” Skenes said. “We didn’t always play like that. … We got hot at the right time.”
Skenes was named the tournament MVP after his seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts in shutting down UNLV’s conference-best offense. Serving as DH in the second game and catcher in the third, he reached safely in 5 of 10 plate appearances, scored a pair of runs and threw out a runner attempting to steal second in the clinching victory.
Air Force baseball tops San Jose State, earns spot in Mountain West championship
“A few of (the seniors) said if I’m going to miss my graduation party, we better earn some hardware,” said Skenes, who was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Sam Kulasingam, Brayden Altorfer, Gehring and Rogers. “To come out here and do that, that fires me up.”
Kazlausky, a graduate of the academy and former pilot, is always fired up about the academy, which his son also attends.
After the game on Saturday night he told the Mountain West Network that of the eight graduating seniors, one is going to medical school and the other seven earned pilot training spots.
He didn’t hesitate to explain in detail what that means.
Sam Kulasingam becomes first Air Force baseball player to win Tony Gwynn Mountain West Player of the Year
“This is just a proving ground for what they’re going to do later on in life, and these kids are ready to go fight for us,” Kazlausky said. “A lot of these kids, they want to go put warheads on foreheads and turn people into hair, teeth and eyeballs for our country. I want people to understand that piece, that they’re doing something that’s going to be so much bigger than baseball later on in life and I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that they’re going to wear our nation’s uniform.”
Where they’ll be wearing the Air Force baseball uniform next week will be revealed on Monday.
On Saturday, Air Force baseball joined the list of Falcons teams who have won or shared team conference and conference division titles at the Division I level.
1 – Mountain West tournament (2022)
1 – Mountain West regular season (2003-04)
Cross country (men’s)
7 – WAC (1991, 1994, 1996), Mountain West (2003, 2015 2020, 2021)
1 – Western Fencing Conference (2015)
5 – WAC (1985, 1995, 1998), MW Mountain Division (2015, 2021)
2 – AHA regular-season (2008-09, 2011-12)
7 – AHA tournament (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018)
4 – ECAC (2014), Southern (2016, 2017, 2019)
4 – MPSF (2012), WAC (2017, 2018, 2020)
Swimming and diving (men’s)
3 – WAC (2016, 2017, 2020)
1 – Mountain West (2019)
Track & field
4 – Mountain West indoor (2012, 2016, 2018, 2022)
5 – Mountain West outdoor (2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018
1 – WWPA regular-season (2020)
3 – WWPA championships (1990, 1994, 2012)
1 – WAC (1991)