By Cam Black-Araujo
Canadian Baseball Network
Heading to the 61st annual Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series and winning National NAIA Player of the Year would be enough accolades for many college players but not for one Canadian outfielder headlining the loaded team Oklahoma Wesleyan University Eagles.
It’s also not often you hear of someone having a “down year” when that same player was rocking a .454 OBP, 10 home runs and 34 RBIs through 49 starts. But when you’re the reigning NAIA national player of the year and Canadian Baseball Network’s Player of the Year like Christopher Acosta-Tapia (Deauville, Que.) expectations begin to rise.
Acosta-Tapia saw his numbers slip a little this season, his second in an Eagles uniform, but in his final season of college ball he’s on the cusp of sending the Eagles to their second straight Avista-NAIA World Series, the third in school history.
The high expectations for the 23-year-old senior are granted considering he tore up the NAIA last season after transferring in from Western Oklahoma State College (NJCAA D-II) where he spent two seasons. He led the country last year in doubles (27), total bases (208) and runs scored (89).
Acosta-Tapia entered March last year with just five home runs and 14 RBIs through 17 games. The month of March would help pave the way to all of his honours from last season and open the eyes of some professional scouts.
It truly began on Feb. 28 before entering March on a tear going 14-for-18 in a five game stretch with seven homers and 17 RBIs, putting up better numbers in those two categories in five games than his first 17. Not only did this rally Acosta-Tapia himself, but also his team as well. Conference play was getting underway around the time and the Eagles saw themselves atop the conference standings for the majority of the season.
After going hitless (0-for-3) in a game Feb. 25th, it would take exactly one month for another team to keep him out of the hit column. The game on March 25 marked the end of a 15-game hit streak for Acosta-Tapia which included six three-hit games leading to a .518 batting average throughout the streak.
And believe it or not, it wasn’t even his longest of the year. An 18-game hit streak to close out the regular season carried over into the postseason which helped lead the squad to their Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) championship.
And again this year in the KCAC tournament pitchers thought they had Acosta-Tapia figured out after holding him to just two hits (2-for-12) through the first three games. He bounced back like all great players do in the championship going 2-for-5 and putting one over the fence for his second home run in as many games to help capture the teams second straight KCAC title.
His numbers may not look close to last year and he has dropped in the batting order but it’s difficult to ignore a player who hit 24 homers last year with a .441 batting average. It was a monstrous year and now one year later he’s hoping to lead his team back to the World Series with something to prove after a down year.
Numbers are great and all as they seem to be the foundation of the game, but what’s just as important is winning and coincidence or not, it seems to follow Acosta-Tapia everywhere he goes. His first two seasons at Western Oklahoma State College, his team appeared in the NJCAA-DII World Series both seasons including the championship in 2015 where they fell just one win short of glory. In those two years his team had an overall record of 101-31 before moving on to join this Eagles squad.
World Series appearances in his first three college seasons may give Acosta-Tapia the experience he needs to finally capture the highest team honour, a national championship.
Whether the fourth time is a charm or not, baseball will continue to flow through Acosta-Tapia’s blood despite his college career coming to a close. With no more than a few college games left in his career, they may be his most important as they could prove pivotal in where his baseball career takes him next.
The track record is there, now all Acosta-Tapia can do is hope it’s enough to convince a major league squad to take a chance on him in the coming months.