Playing the Shockers on Thursday is what coach Chad Newhard called “a once in a lifetime opportunity for our young men.”
“They’ve got one of the elite baseball programs in the country,” he said. “Obviously, the guys are excited, but we’ve got a lot to do before we can think about that.”
The top item on the agenda is tightening up a leaky defense that took most of the shine off of a gem thrown by Tyler Suderman in the first game of a set Saturday at Friends.
“Suderman pitched basically no-hit ball through four innings, but the game got away from us late,” Newhard said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to behind him.”
Tabor was charged with five errors in the contest. But neither did the Bluejay offense make plays for the pitcher, and game one ended in a 7-3 loss. Tabor lost the late game 13-9.
Alfred Wilson knocked the early afternoon’s second pitch into shallow right field, and Jordan Lago followed with a hit-and-run single through a hole that opened up on the right side when Wilson bolted for second.
Wilson advanced to third, bringing Chris Brown to the plate with a chance to add to his team-high total of 38 RBI.
Brown lifted a fly ball plenty deep enough into left field to give Wilson a shot at scoring via sacrifice fly, and Wilson easily beat the throw home.
But the score was wiped off the board when the field umpire ruled on an appeal to third that Wilson had taken off before the catch was made.
Lago was caught stealing to end the inning, but more than made up for the lapse by turning a line drive into an unassisted double play in the bottom half.
Suderman finished the inning with a strikeout, and neither team threatened until the top of the fourth.
Lago drew a one-out walk and Brown followed with a single through second base.
That gave the Bluejays two cracks at producing a hit with a runner in scoring position, but Friends southpaw Jimmy Treece induced back-to-back groundouts to end the threat.
The Falcons drew first blood in the bottom half, as ex-Bluejay Errol Bailey worked a five-pitch walk with two down and scored when Cameron White drove a double off of the fence in left-center field.
After Suderman induced a grounder to end the inning, Tabor failed to reach base in the top of the fifth.
After some sloppy fielding put runners on second and third with no outs, Friends made it 3-0 on a two-out, two-run single by Jason Enyart.
With some help from third baseman Tyler Sizemore, Suderman had nearly worked his way out of the jam.
After Bailey struck out swinging, Sizemore corralled a sharply-struck ground ball, looked the runners back, and notched the putout at first. But Enyart’s single proved decisive.
The Bluejays turned a leadoff triple by Dustin Dick into one run in the top of the sixth, but the Falcons scored four more—one by way of sacrifice fly, three by way of home run—and blew it open in the bottom of the inning.
Travis Schafer nailed a two-run double with two outs in the top of the seventh, but the Bluejays were unable to further extend the game.
“Friends has a solid team,” Newhard said. “We competed against them very well in the second game, when we had more success putting pressure on them with our baserunning.”
Friends struck quickly, turning a bunt single by Bailey into a one-run lead with long double by Austin Stading.
The Falcon lead grew to three on an error and back-to-back singles, and a walk loaded the bases. Then starting pitcher Garrett Boyer composed himself to strike out the side.
Friends knocked Boyer out two-thirds of the way through the second inning, and led 7-0 heading third.
The Bluejays came roaring back in the top of the fourth. Lago, Brown and Sizemore strung together three straight singles to start the inning, and Tabor put up five runs in the frame.
Clayton Kessler, who doubled and scored in the top half, came on to pitch in the bottom of the fourth and lasted three innings.
After Kessler worked the fifth unscathed, Tabor grabbed the lead with a parade of softly-hit singles, the last two of which produced runs and an 8-7 lead.
The advantage was short-lived, as Friends struck back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Sizemore drove in Lago with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth, evening it briefly at nine-all.
But Enyart bashed a three-run home run that put the Falcons up 13-9 in the sixth, and the Bluejays did not score in the seventh.
Coming—Tabor faced Ottawa Tuesday and plays Sterling today. Tabor travels to WSU Thursday. Newhard suggested that those interested in attending Thursday’s game contact Tabor’s Student Development office, as some tickets may be available for purchase.