The Tabor College baseball team?s historic run in the program?s first NAIA World Series appearance came to a close Tuesday with a heartbreaking, 10-9 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan in 12 innings.
The lead changed hands multiple times as the teams traded punches in a drawn-out battle. Tabor led 3-1 after three innings, but trailed 6-4 after six. The Bluejays scored a run in the seventh and added four in the eighth to claim a 9-6 advantage. Oklahoma Wesleyan, however, tied it with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Neither team scored again until the bottom of the 12th inning when the Eagles? Jeff Butler drove in the winning run with his sixth hit of the day, tying a World Series record.
Tabor missed a scoring opportunity in the top of the 10th inning, loading the bases but unable to capitalize. In that inning, CJ DeDeaux hit a leadoff single, and Grant Silva bunted and reached base on an error. The Eagles intentionally walked Gadiel Baez, loading the bases with nobody out. However, a fly out followed by a double play ended the half inning.
The Eagles left one on base in the bottom half of the inning, as did Tabor in the top of the 11th when Troy Torres hit a leadoff single.
Alex Mann, the Bluejays? closer, retired the Eagles in order in the bottom of the 11th, but Tabor suffered the same fate in the top of the 12th.
Oklahoma Wesleyan scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning. Following a ground out to leadoff the inning, a Tabor throwing error allowed the second Eagle batter to reach base and advance to second. Tabor gained the second out of the half inning when Kevin Seeger made a diving catch along the first base line. However, consecutive singles gave Oklahoma Wesleyan all it needed to score the winning run.
Tabor got off to a fast start offensively. After an inning-opening walk, Gadiel Baez knocked out an RBI double to get the Bluejays on the board. Following a line out, Seeger drove in a run with a single to give Tabor an early 2-0 lead.
Oklahoma Wesleyan came right back, scoring one run on two hits and two errors in the bottom of the inning.
The Bluejays added to their lead in the third inning on a Torres RBI double that scored Seeger, who had previously hit a two-out single.
Momentum shifted to Oklahoma Wesleyan in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a leadoff walk and two singles sandwiching a strikeout, the bases were loaded. Back-to-back RBI singles tied the game at 3. Three more runs scored for the Eagles after a fielder?s choice and a two-run single. Just like that, the Eagles held a 6-3 lead. Following a walk, Russell Longworth entered in relief of Tabor starter, Junior Mustain, getting out of the inning with a line out.
Tabor continued to battle, scoring one in the top of the sixth when DeDeaux drove in a run, and adding another in the top of the seventh when Kirk Rocha scored on a throwing error.
That brought Tabor within 6-5. The Bluejays retired the next three Eagles in order, leading up to a four-run top of the eighth inning.
Working with two outs, Shaun Reid hit a single and DeDeaux was hit by a pitch. Silva walked to load the bases. That brought Baez to the plate, where he knocked out a three-RBI double deep down the left field line. Rocha drove in another run with a single, putting Tabor back in front, 9-6.
Oklahoma Wesleyan, however, used three hits and an error to score three runs in the bottom half of the inning. Tabor went three up, three down in the top of the ninth, and the Eagles left one on base in the bottom of the inning, setting up the extra innings.
Torres and DeDeaux were each 2-for-5 with an RBI apiece. Baez, Rocha and Seeger were each 2-for-6. Baez led the team with four RBIs. For the Eagles, Butler was 6-for-7 with five RBIs.
Mann took the pitching loss. Over four innings, he gave up four hits and one unearned run. He walked no one and struck out two. In all, Tabor gave up five earned runs.
Tabor concludes its play in the World Series with a 2-2 record.