Bluejays push for spot in post-season KCAC tournament

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Tabor College baseball team stepped out of conference play on Saturday, hosting Rogers State from Oklahoma.

Tabor dropped the opener 5-4, but rebounded to win the second game 16-9.

“They’re not a bad team,” coach John Sparks said. “They swept us down there over our spring break.”

In the opener, starting pitcher Andy Womack pitched three innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs.

Leading Tabor’s attack was Brian Kimsey, who drove in two runs with a single and a home run, and Grant Brubacher, who was 2-for-2 with a walk and a run batted in.

Tabor stranded the winning run on first base in the seventh inning in the one-run loss.

Josh LeTourneau pitched the final four innings in relief.

In the second game, reliever Cooper Garbe benefitted from Tabor’s 14-hit attack.

The Bluejays trailed 5-0 after 11/2 innings before erupting for 16 runs in innings two through six.

Justin Wilczak and Kevin Peterson both drove in three runs while Wilczak pounded out three singles.

Garbe picked up the win in relief of Tyler McKim as Tabor improved to 20-26 for the season.

“I scheduled these two non-conference games at this time of the year because it was going to be eight days between games for us and I wanted us to see some pitching,” Sparks said. “In that regard, I think we accomplished what we were trying to accomplish.

“We pounded out 16 runs in the second game and, hopefully, that gives us a little more confidence going into our last four games.”

Ottawa-Tabor hosted one of the top teams in the KCAC last Tuesday, but came up just short in two heart-breaking losses to Ottawa, 9-8 and 12-9 in 12 innings.

“We just couldn’t come up with that big two-out hit in either game to put us over the top,” coach John Sparks said. “These were two really tough games to lose.”

In the opener, Casey Hillman absorbed a complete-game loss, allowing seven earned runs and 15 hits while striking out two.

The Bluejays pounded out 13 hits, led by Kevin Peterson and Hillman, who both went 3-for-4. Tyson Bauerle drove in three runs.

The Bluejays scored six runs in the first inning to chase starter Ryan Jordan, who retired only one batter. Jordan allowed five earned runs and five hits in his short stint.

Leading 6-0 after one inning, Hillman allowed four runs in the top of the second on four hits and two Bluejay errors.

Tabor added single runs in the second and fourth innings and led 8-6 heading into the sixth when Ottawa tied the game on a two-run home run by Birch Roybal.

In the top of the seventh, Ottawa got consecutive singles and both runners advanced on a passed ball with just one out. A single to center scored one run, but the other runner was cut down at home. Still, the Braves led 9-8.

Ottawa reliever Brian Woods struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to preserve the victory.

Grant Brubacher homered for Tabor.

In Game 2, Tabor starter Scott Wolf lasted 52/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs.

Ottawa built a 6-2 lead on Tabor after 41/2 innings, but the Bluejays exploded for their second six-run inning of the day in the bottom of the fifth to take an 8-6 lead.

Key blows in the inning were a two-run home run from Chance Miles and a three-run shot by catcher Josh Craig.

Ottawa took a 9-8 lead in the sixth before Tabor tied it in the bottom half of the inning on a Brubacher double and Hillman sacrifice fly.

Neither team scored again until Ottawa pushed three runs across in the top of the 12th inning off losing pitcher Josh Letourneau. The Braves scored those runs on only one hit, but Tabor committed two errors.

The Bluejays rapped out 14 hits in the game, including three by Brubacher. Miles drove in four runs and Craig three.

Tabor committed six errors.

“We played well enough to win both games,” Sparks said. “I just wanted to shake the guys on one hand and shake their hands on the other hand because they never gave up.

“Our team kind of came together during the 12-inning game and I was proud of them and we know we can play with the team that’s tied for first place.”

With the double loss, Tabor fell to 19-25 for the season and 7-13 in KCAC play.

Coming-Tabor travels to Salina to battle Kansas Wesleyan today (Wednesday) and will play host to Saint Mary on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. in the Bluejays’ final home appearance of the regular season.

“This is our week as far as determining whether we’ll claim the final spot in the conference tournament,” Sparks said. “We could clinch that spot on Wednesday depending on what happens here and at Sterling but if we win all four games this week, there’s no way Sterling can catch us.”

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