Tyler Fenton bends a knee-buckling breaking ball over the outside corner early in Friday?s 3-1 season-ending loss to the Falcons.
The Tabor College baseball team last postseason win was a 2-0 win over Friends in 2005. The Bluejays ended their playoff drought with a 10-7 win over Friends in the first game of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference double-elimination tournament Wednesday in Junction City. But after eventual champion Kansas Wesleyan handed the Bluejays their first loss, Friends took revenge in the elimination game.
Friends?Thanks to Friends starting pitcher Cale Eldridge and a 3-run seventh inning, the Tabor College baseball season ended in a 3-1 loss Friday. But Bluejays starter Tyler Fenton dodged bullets for six innings, inducing three double play grounders to turn the contest into a dead-even pitcher's duel.
The first of the double plays came in the top of the second, when a 4-6-3 combination wiped out a lead single by Mike Perry.
In the top of the third, Fenton allowed back-to-back singles, combined with a sacrifice bunt, to set runners at second and third with one out. But Fenton induced a can-of-corn pop fly and a groundout to escape the jam.
Fenton dodged more bullets, starting the top of the fourth with back-to-back singles before a 5-3 double play broke the back of the Falcons threat.
Behind Paul Bridenbaugh's leadoff double, the Bluejays put pressure on Eldridge in the bottom of the fourth. Bridenbaugh moved to third on Andrew Cook's groundout to first base, but Eldridge struck out Mike Chaput and Matt Pogue to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Fenton worked second baseman Sean Zuniga into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Tabor took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half, and narrowly missed an opportunity to score even more: Ryan Boucher was beaned leading off, then Dustin Dick pushed a perfect bunt down the third base line. Boucher easily advanced to second, and with three Falcons waiting for the ball to roll foul, Dick reached first on an infield single.
CJ Henrichsen dropped a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third for Tyson Kendrick, who drove in Boucher with a sacrifice fly to right field. But Eldridge forced Tanner Stevenson into a 6-3 groundout to strand Dick at third.
Fenton worked a 1-2-3 sixth and the Bluejay offense threatened again in the bottom half. Cook's 1-out single turned into a second-and-third situation when Eldridge threw Chaput's sacrifice bunt into right field.
With pinch runners on for Tabor's heavy hitters, Eldridge turned a Pogue grounder into a 1-2 fielder's choice that cut down the lead runner. Another groundout stranded two Bluejays and ended the threat.
The Falcons cracked Fenton in the seventh. A 2-out walk began a 3-run rally that included a single by Joshua Tucker, an RBI double by TJ Lawless, and a 2-run single by Zuniga.
Henrichsen hammered a 2-out double in the bottom of the seventh, but was stranded by Eldridge, who left with a 3-1 lead. It took four relievers?Nicholas Wilczynski, Mike Lewis, Brock Vizner and Bryan Swenson?but the Falcons' pitching staff made the lead stand.
In the tournament opener for both teams, the Bluejays rallied from five runs down to beat Friends 10-7. The Bluejays trailed 5-0 after the Falcons finished starting pitcher Wes Stancher's night in the first of nine innings.
Friends shortstop Austin Stading smashed Stancher's second pitch over the left field fence, and the Falcons tacked on four consecutive singles for a 3-0 lead before Tabor recorded an out.
Relief pitcher Travis Schafer was also greeted rudely, as Friends left fielder Jordan Miller drilled a 2-run double to cap the early scoring outburst.
The Bluejays started chipping away immediately in the bottom half, as CJ Henrichsen turned a hit-by-pitch free pass into Tabor's first run with help from a single by Tyson Kendrick, a passed ball, and a run-scoring fielder's choice groundout by Tanner Stevenson.
After Schafer worked a 1-2-3 top half, Henrichsen helped Tabor add two more runs in the bottom of the second, doubling home Clayton Kessler and Ryan Boucher with two outs.
Friends extended its lead to 7-3 before the Bluejays scored again. Stading's second homer of the night made it a 4-run game, but the Bluejays closed the gap to 7-6 in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Chaput, Stevenson, and Paul Bridenbaugh singled in succession, with Chaput scoring when Andrew Cook was beaned by Jimmy Treece with the bases loaded.
After an infield fly was booked for the first out, Dustin Dick walked to force home another run. Boucher singled home Bridenbaugh, bringing Henrichsen to the plate with the bases loaded?but a 4-6-3 double play grounder ended the inning.
Schafer worked the top of the sixth without incident, walking Stading with two outs before striking out Brett Warkentine looking.
Behind Kendrick's leadoff double, Tabor evened the tally in the bottom of the sixth. After a groundout, Stevenson's single scored pinch runner Anthony Williamson from third.
Bridenbaugh started the seventh and stranded a runner at second to preserve a 7-7 score, and the Bluejays erupted for three runs.
With the bases loaded for him again Henrichsen punched a grounder past Stading to drive in two runs on the game's only fielding error. Kendrick followed with a single that scored Boucher from second. Bridenbaugh notched two strikeouts in the eighth and induced three fly outs in the ninth to earn the win.
Kansas Wesleyan?Coming off a home-and-home sweep of the Bluejays, the Coyotes continued their run of dominance against Tabor during the second day of the KCAC post-season tournament.
Wesleyan starter Dale Harder notched 10 strikeouts while going the distance in Thursday's 11-1 7-inning win. Scheduled to run nine innings, the Bluejay offense mustered only a CJ Henrichsen home run in the third inning of the loss, and the Tabor defense?nearly flawless in the opener against Friends?committed four errors.
Held temporarily scoreless by Bluejays starter Andrew Cook, the Coyotes posted five runs in the bottom of the second and never looked back.
Brian Burke's lead single set up an RBI single by Coyotes left fielder Brian Dobyns, and KW second baseman Travis Irwin drove in another via sacrifice fly. Center fielder Brandon Mathes' 2-out single led to third baseman Mike Pettibone's three-run home run to left center. Harder ensured the Coyotes would not need another run, but Wesleyan nonetheless posted single scores in the third and fifth and tacked on pairs in the sixth and seventh to end the contest early.
The loss, combined with Friends' 7-6 extra-innings win over Saint Mary, set up a do-or-die rematch between Tabor and the Falcons Friday.
Wichita State?Tuesday?s contest was not only a homecoming for Shockers baseball Hall of Famer and Bluejays coach Mark Standiford?it was a remarkably close contest given the disparities between the teams.
The Shockers used 21 players, dividing the innings between eight pitchers and 13 position players. They out-hit Tabor 13-7.
According to the official books, Tabor lost 5-3. But with a 3-run first, the Bluejays held were able to hold a lead for three innings?plenty long enough to count it a moral victory.
Tyson Kendrick and Tanner Stevenson knocked back-to-back singles with two outs in the top of the first, and the consecutive hits streak reached five on RBI drives by Mike Chaput, Andrew Cook and Paul Bridenbaugh.
That was it for Tabor?s offense, but Bluejay pitchers Brad Zewe and Tyler Fenton kept the Shockers more or less in check for the rest of the night. Each pitched four innings, and Zewe allowed four of the Wichita State?s runs.
Tabor?s final record is 22-31 overall, 9-16 in the KCAC.