“It’s going to challenge the pitching staff, but we’ve got enough arms rested that it’s not going to affect us greatly,” coach Chad Newhard said.
“We’re going to have to have some guys step up and play every game because of our lack of depth, so it’s important that we don’t run into knickknack injuries,” he noted. “We played seven games in four days in Texas earlier in the year—our guys are resiliant enough, and they showed energy to go out and compete every day—so I’m confident that we can get through this stretch, too.”
The Bluejays swept Ottawa, 13-9 and 13-8. But the most important road game of the week may have been Tabor’s 8-1 loss at University of Kansas March 11 in Lawrence.
“We played well at Kansas, and that was kind of a springboard for us,” he said. “It gave us some confidence. We competed well, we made plays behind our pitchers, and offensively, we did better than our box score indicated.”
Sloppy fielding had hampered the Bluejays in the previous week’s outings, but Tabor committed no errors at KU.
“They helped us out a little bit—they hit a lot of balls in the air, and when you can run underneath them, it’s a little easier play to make,” Newhard said. “But we played solid and didn’t allow them any extra outs, and that allowed us to compete with them.
“We played a respectable game, and I think it gave us a lot of confidence, knowing that we saw some really good pitching and a really talented team and finding that we could compete with them.”
Ottawa—The first game tilted from nailbiter to walkover in the fourth inning, when Tabor scorched Braves starter Eric Cordell for five runs.
The five-run fourth snapped a 3-3 tie—Tabor had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and Ottawa had rallied for two in the third—and the Bluejays cruised to a 13-9 victory.
Tabor bashed 14 hits and took advantage of shaky defense by the Braves, who committed four errors. Chris Brown homered and drove in four runs during his 3-for-4 outing.
Alfred Wilson and Tyler Suderman each drove in two runs, and the entire order contributed to the offensive outburst.
“We swung the bats extremely well at Ottawa,” Newhard said. “Our pitchers threw strikes, we made plays behind them, and Ottawa hit the ball pretty well, too.
“But in the end, we made a couple more plays than they did, and that allowed us to come out on top,” Newhard added.
The Braves rallied to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh, bringing Tyler Sizemore for the final three outs. Sizemore allowed two hits and an unearned run in relief of Clayton Kessler, who came on for Tyler Suderman in the bottom of the sixth.
Sizemore’s save evened Suderman’s record at 3-3.
The second game of the set saw the Bluejays turn the tables on the Braves in the final inning. The Bluejays had taken a 4-0 lead in the top of the second.
But three unearned runs in the first three innings—compared to just one in the first game—turned the Tabor lead into a 5-4 deficit during the bottom of the third.
A two-run fourth restored the lead for a moment, but Ottawa rallied again, retaking the lead in the fifth. A scoreless sixth set the stage for Suderman, who came off the bench to hit for Andrew Cook with his team down a run in the seventh.
Suderman slugged a double, driving in the tying run, and Travis Schafer kept the Braves off of the board in the bottom half to extend the game into the eighth
The offense took it from there, scathing relief pitcher Brandon Myers for six runs. Ottawa got one back in the last of the eighth, but could not stop Travis Schafer from picking up his first win of the year.
Schafer threw four innings in relief of Alfred Wilson and Garret Boyer, allowing seven baserunners on four hits, two hit batsmen and a walk, but limiting the damage to two runs. Schafer also struck out two.
Coming—Tabor carried a 2-0 conference record into Tuesday’s home faceoff with Bethany. The Bluejays play Waldorf in single nine-inning games both Wednesday and Thursday at 4 p.m.
The rained out games against Friends scheduled initially for March 15 will be played Friday starting at 1 p.m. Tabor’s regularly scheduled contests against Sterling will start at 1 p.m. Saturday in Hillsboro.
“The weather has been frustrating for us—we want to play,” Newhard said. “These are big for us, and if we continue to play well, we can set ourselves up to make a run in the conference.”
“We’re going to play a couple teams that have been conference powerhouses in Bethany and Friends,” he added. “A big week could allow us to compete for a long time, maybe the rest of the season, toward the top end of the conference,” he said.
A six-day, nine-game homestand concludes when Manhattan Christian visits Hillsboro for a single nine-inning contest slated for 3 p.m. Monday.
Tabor will travel to Saint Mary March 24 for a 1 p.m. doubleheader in Leavenworth.