ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The season ended for the Tabor College baseball team over the weekend when conference front-runner Friends University came to town and swept the Bluejays by scores of 9-0 and 4-1 to capture the KCAC title.
“We didn’t play that badly,” coach John Sparks said. “We played well defensively (one error in two games combined), but we just didn’t get many breaks.”
In the opener, excellent pitching by Friends shut down the Bluejay bats. In fact, Jeremy Ball’s single in the fourth inning was Tabor’s only hit of the day.
“It sounds like a cliche, but almost every ball we hit hard, we hit right at them,” Sparks said. “Overall though, we didn’t hit the ball very well, which has been the story of the year for us.”
Facing Zavien Rivers, the Falcons collected nine runs on eight hits as they scored four runs in the second inning and single runs in the next five innings.
In the second contest, Gerald Goodale got the start and the senior allowed just four runs and eight hits.
Friends scored two runs in the second inning, one in the third and one in the fifth.
Tabor averted the shutout in the bottom of the seventh inning when Grant Brubacher, who went 2-for-4, singled and came home on a Keenan Morris RBI single.
Tabor failed to qualify for the post-season KCAC tournament and finished the season with a record of 18-26 and a conference record of 7-17.
“It was a story of two seasons,” Sparks said. “We started 16-11 and 5-2 in the conference and that was exciting. It showed us what we were capable of.”
But Sparks said on the second half of the season, his team strayed away from what brought it early success.
“No. 1, I think our conference is awfully good,” Sparks said. “No. 2, we just did fundamental things early in the year to win games, but during our losing streak, we didn’t continue to do those things.
“We’re still at a point talent-wise as young as we were, that in order to beat teams like Sterling or Bethany, we have to play a fairly error-free game on both offense and defense,” he added. “But as frustrating as it is to miss the tournament again, there were some really good things that came out of this season.”
Sparks said the 18 victories by Tabor was the best result in the past nine years.
“We also have almost everyone coming back next season and, with the recruiting class we have coming in, we should be a better team next year,” he said.
“Our recruiting is going well-we know what gaps we need to fill and some of those are already filled.”
Sparks said four seniors played their final game in a Tabor uniform Saturday.
“JR Mendoza will be missed more than anything for his enthusiasm,” Sparks said. “We’ll miss his leadership and his positive attitude.”
“Gerald Goodale really stepped up this season and finished the year with a 5-3 record, which is by far his best year here,” Sparks said. “I couldn’t have asked for much more from him and I was really satisfied with the job he did this season.”
Willie Lopez and Ernest Garza were Tabor’s other two seniors.
“Those two both stepped in and Willie got some significant playing time in the outfield,” Sparks said. “Ernest helped us out pinch hitting and pinch running, and they both scored some big runs for us this year.”
Looking ahead to next season, Sparks said the Bluejays will keep trying to improve.
“This off season, the guys who are coming back are committed to becoming better,” he said.
“We should be at the point where we can get over that hump next year.”
Saint Mary-Tabor traveled to Leavenworth last week to battle the Saint Mary Spires and came home with a doubleheader split.
“We should have won them both,” coach John Sparks said. “We just didn’t finish them off.”
In the opener, Bluejay bats erupted for 18 hits, resulting in a 14-1 victory.
Zavien Rivers was the winning pitcher for Tabor, allowing just eights hits. Layne Frick earned a save.
Tabor was led by Grant Brubacher (3-for-4, two runs batted in), Keenan Morris (3-for-5, two RBI), Mike Fouquet (3-for-5), Brian Kimsey (2-for-4, two RBI), Chance Miles (1-for-4, two RBI), and Jeremy Ball (2-for-4, one RBI).
In the second contest, Tabor took a 2-0 in the first inning. Miles drove in both runs, one of which was Ball, who reached on a triple.
While Tabor’s offense went stagnant for the remainder of the game, starting pitcher Andy Womack held the Spires scoreless over the first six innings.
Frick came on in relief, but was unable to hold the Spires, who rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh for the 3-2 win.
“Layne has done a great job for us all year, but it just didn’t happen for him in this one,” Sparks said.