Bluejays? championship hopes dashed in the end

Emotions ran high in a fast-paced, back-and-forth game Friday as nationally-ranked Tabor lost the KCAC championship title, 8-7, when Kansas Wesleyan scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defend its tournament championship.

The heartbreaking loss came after the Bluejays survived elimination three times in the loser?s bracket, where they were placed after losing to Sterling, 9-8, in the first round of the tournament May 4.

Tabor?s runner-up finish gives the Bluejays a 45-14 season record and puts them in a three-way tie for the second-most victories in the nation.

?I was very proud of our seniors,? coach Mark Standiford said. ?I thought they led our team well all year. We were able to accomplish something Tabor has not experienced before, with 45 wins.?

Kansas Wesleyan?What turned out to be a tense game started slowly, with Tabor remaining scoreless in the first two innings and the Coyotes putting up one run in each.

In the third inning, the Bluejays scored three time to grab the lead. But KWU replied with three runs of their own against Tabor pitcher Jonathan Murray, who struggled early in the game but grew stronger as the game went on.

The game heated up fast when the Bluejay?s Andrew Perez collapsed in the bottom of the third, prompting jeers from Coyotes fans. Coach Mark Standi?ford pulled Bluejay catcher Matt Weger away from the Kansas Wesleyan dugout as athletic trainers rehydrated Perez.

?It was a gutsy performance, just to play,? said Standiford, referring to Perez, who was playing with stitches in the bottom of his foot. ?It hurt to not have him, a player of that caliber.?

Seemingly galvanized by the event, Murray struck out the next Coyotes batter on three pitches for the last out.

In the top of the fourth, Kori Melo was hit by a pitch, but was denied first base. He homered on the next pitch and teammate Jeff Hutton homered a couple minutes later to earn three runs and a 6-5 lead.

The Coyotes eked out a run in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game, but both teams remained scoreless in a tough pitching battle in the seventh and eighth innings. The Bluejays finally scored in the top of the ninth to stake a narrow 7-6 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, the Coyotes got a base hit with a runner on third to tie the game, then scored the winning run on a slide when the Bluejays could not get the ball to the catcher fast enough.

In seconds, Tabor?s championship hopes were over. Three-time champion Kansas Wesleyan will advance to NAIA play.

Hutton contributed two runs batted in for the Bluejays, with Melo, Andrew Perez, Koby Temple and Jake Mays each adding an RBI.

Murray pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and six runs while striking out 10.

Sterling?Tabor finally got a win over Sterling with a critical 5-1 decision Thursday night that sent the Bluejays to the title game. It also was the 100th win for Bluejays? coach Mark Standiford.

Tabor managed a near-shutout performance, allowing Sterling only one run in the fourth inning and three hits overall.

Adam McCormick led the offense with two runs batted in. Tanner Stevenson contributed a home run and an RBI.

Brent McKinnon pitched all nine innings, allowing three hits while striking out seven.

Saint Mary?The Bluejays earned a 4-0 shutout victory over the Spires in the second round of the loser?s bracket behind a three-run third inning.

Adam McCormick posted two runs batted in, with Kori Melo and Tanner Stevenson adding one RBI each.

Brian Kowal pitched all nine innings for the win, allowing only two hits while striking out three.

Ottawa?In the first round of the loser?s bracket, the Bluejays took down Ottawa, 10-1. Tabor scored three runs in the bottom of the third and had a six-run scoring burst in the bottom of the fourth.

Kori Melo, Andrew Perez, Koby Temple and Bret Lentz each drove in two runs for Tabor, with Perez and Temple each hitting a home run.

Tyler Fenton pitched seven innings for the win. He allowed six hits and one run while striking out three. Darius Iacono pitched two innings.

Sterling?Tabor almost beat Sterling May 4 in the first round of the tournament just days after Sterling won three of four games against Tabor at the end of the regular season.

But Sterling prevailed, 9-8, behind a six-run fifth inning. The two teams were tied, 1-1, when Sterling scored six times in the sixth inning and tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh for an 8-1 lead.

The Bluejays rallied to post a combined seven runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but fell one run short.

Seven Bluejays each drove in a run. David Ormiston pitched 41?3 innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs while striking out four. Jonathan Murray and Nicholas Reif came on in relief.

?We knew the Sterling game was going to be tough,? Standi?ford said. ?I was proud. It?s very easy to quit when you lose that early in the tournament, but I thought they showed good heart and battled back.?

Coming?The Bluejays hope to receive an at-large bid in the NAIA tournament this week.

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Births (July 31, 2013)
Abigail Kruse Jason and Ruby Kruse of Marion announce the birth of...
Read More