North Central College baseball coach Ed Mathey said that the Snowbird Baseball Classic has been an invaluable resource in preparing his team for the season ahead. Sun Photo BEN BAUGH

The North Central College Cardinals are no stranger to Charlotte County.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Cardinals have participated in the Snowbird Baseball Classic.

The depth and the quality of the competition has been a key variable in the Naperville, Ill.-based learning institution's decision making process, with the tournament becoming a routine part of their winter schedule, said Ed Mathey, North Central College baseball coach.

The Cardinals' coach is familiar with the Snowbird Baseball Classic's tournament director, Steve Partington, with the two having crossed paths previously, during Partington's past career as a professional umpire.

"You have good fields to play on, good competition, more often then not the weather is going to be very playable, so you have some consistency there," said Mathey. "It's that time of the year where we need to be outside playing and not inside practicing."

Saturday's inclement weather altered the tournament's schedule, but the Cardinals were still able to get their game in Saturday, defeating Eastern Connecticut State, 5-3. Earlier in the week the Cardinals were victorious over SUNY Canton and Vassar College.

The tournament itself serves as great way to prepare for the rest of year, said Mathey.

"We kind of request a pretty good schedule down here as far as the competition," said Mathey. "We have several nationally ranked teams. It forces us to play the game at a certain level, if we want to be successful. But win, lose or draw, we're going to find out some things about ourselves because we're playing good competition."

The Cardinals main objective is to win their conference, the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. In 2016, North Central College enjoyed a great deal of success while participating in the Snowbird Baseball Classic.

"We didn't win our conference, but we still got invited to the national tournament because of our strength of scheduling, and having some victories against those teams," said Mathey.

The tournament serves as an invaluable resource for the schools who participate because of the quality of competition.

"We're a (Division III) program that's on the cusp of all that," said Mathey. "We're a top-30 team and we've been to the regionals the last few years. We finished third in the country in 2017. For us to come down here and get this all in one place is great for us, because it's going to help prepare us."

The depth of the competition will expose what the opposing teams will need to work on, providing a platform for the players and coaches to address those particular things, allowing them to discuss ways to make those adjustments so they can be implemented and executed, said Mathey.

Both the Cardinals varsity and junior varsity teams made the trip, and they'll each play six games over a seven day span, meaning 12 games over that time frame at the North Charlotte Regional Park.


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