Fate did not favor the Tabor baseball team in its final series of the year, robbing it of the exclusive KCAC title as the team went 1-3 against Sterling College this weekend to share the title after leading by two games going into the series.
?It was a tough series with Sterling,? said coach Mark Standiford. ?We are both evenly matched, therefore the little things in the game will make the difference. We left too many guys on base and just couldn?t get the big hit when we needed it, and they did.?
Nevertheless, this season marks the first time the Bluejays earned the title in nearly two decades, after they won the conference title in the 1995-96 season.
Tabor finished the regular season with a 21-7 conference record and 39-11 overall, reaching as high as 17th in the NAIA Top 25 polls.
The Bluejays were led to success by top individual performances from Art Corona, who is ranked first in the nation in runs scored per game (1.340), Adam McCormick, who led nationally in batting average (.490) and Matt Cardona, who came in first in the nation in fielding (1.000).
?Art Corona has been our most consistent player all year and was voted Conference Player of the Year,? Standiford said. ?Adam McCormick has led the nation in hitting all year and has been the anchor of our offense.?
Their contributions, as well as those of their teammates, gave the Bluejays an offense ranked second in the country with a .361 batting average and .544 slugging percentage. They were ranked in the top 15 in the nation in 16 offensive categories.
Tabor also achieved another first this season, receiving its golden ticket to the NAIA national baseball tournament with an invitation to host an opening round at Hobart-Detter field in Hutchinson, which is scheduled to take place May 10-14.
Sterling ?Tabor earned a split against the Warriors Friday for senior day.
In Game 1, the Bluejays earned a 6-3 win thanks to four runs scored in the bottom of the fifth and home runs from Koby Temple and Matt Cardona.
Temple had four runs-batted-in overall to pace the Tabor offense, while David Ormiston (8-2) pitched seven innings for the win, striking out six and allowing just three runs.
But Sterling came back with a bite to hand Tabor a 26-5 defeat in the second game, racking up 13 runs in the third inning.
Zach Bissell and Temple each had a home run, with Temple earning two RBIs. Anthony Mendoza pitched 21?5 innings in the loss and allowed nine runs.
In Saturday?s road rematch, Sterling swept the Bluejays for its share of the KCAC pie.
Sterling won Game 1, 5-4, edging Tabor with a run in the bottom of the 10th.
Cardona earned two RBIs to lead the Bluejay offense and Brian Kowal (8-4) pitched 41?10 innings for the loss, allowing three runs.
Tabor?s three-run comeback in the top of the seventh fell just short in Game 2, letting Sterling escape with a 7-6 victory.
Matt Weger had three RBIs for Tabor, including a home run, and Matt Lambert (5-1) pitched 41?10 innings for the loss, allowing six runs, while striking out six.
Baker ?Tabor earned a sweep of Baker University in a home doubleheader April 24.
The Jays took Game 1, 11-10, thanks to an eighth-inning run. Adam McCormick paced the offense with four runs-batted-in, including a home run.
On the mound, Matt Lambert (5-1) closed for the win, allowing no hits or runs and striking out one.
After trailing early in Game 2, Tabor put together four runs in the fifth and sixth innings to edge Baker, 8-7, for the sweep.
Andrew Perez led with three RBIs, including a homer, with Tyler Kozlowski chipping in two RBIs. Zach Richert (1-0) pitched two innings for the win, allowing one hit, no runs and striking out two.
Coming ?No. 2 seed Tabor was scheduled to play No. 3 seed Kansas Wesleyan in the opening round of the KCAC Championship tournament at 11 a.m. May 2 at Hobart-Detter field in Hutchinson.
If the Jays defeat KWU, they are slated to play the winner of the Sterling vs. Saint Mary/Ottawa game Thursday at 3 p.m. If they lose, they will play the loser of Saint Mary/Ottawa in the first elimination game May 2 at 7 p.m.
?We have shown steady improvement offensively over the year as well as in our defense,? said coach Mark Standiford. ?We are going to have to pitch better if we want to make a run in the tournament.?