Rainy day melee/ Tabor’s World Series bid falls short in NAIA Opening Round championship

Dalton Iveans attempts a double play at first after securing the second out via line out in the top of the third inning against Mayville State Wednesday. Tabor defeated Mayville State, 4-3, in walkoff fashion. After losing their first game of the NAIA Opening Round tournament in Hutchinson, the Bluejays won three games before falling to Science and Arts in the championship.The Tabor College baseball season came to an end in the early morning hours Friday with an 18-2 loss to 11th-ranked Science and Arts.

It was the Bluejays’ fifth game of the NAIA Opening Round tournament in Hutchinson, and Tabor’s pitching staff was not at full strength.

“We had played five games in three days,” coach Mark Standiford said. “I think that played in to our pitching depth maybe a little bit to where guys weren’t able to bounce back quite as quick.”

It had been a long day for the Bluejays, who had left Hillsboro at 6:45 that morning in anticipation of an 11 a.m. game with Wayland Baptist, only to have that game postponed until nearly 5 p.m. because of rain.

When the Bluejays took the field for the championship around 8:30 p.m., mist still hung in the air, and the weather, not to mention fatigue, began to take its toll.

The top-seeded Drovers had not lost heading into the championship, and outscored their opponents 45-3 in three games to punch a ticket to the World Series.

Against Tabor, Drover pitcher Allan Sanchez scattered eight hits in seven innings on the mound, giving up one earned run and striking out nine Bluejays.

Tabor put six different pitchers on the mound, but the Drovers continued to score, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and building it to 5-0 through three. A six-run, six-hit sixth inning contributed to a 14-1 margin, and USAO put a final exclamation on its four-run eighth inning with a two-run home run to conclude the scoring barrage.

It wasn’t that Tabor wasn’t getting on base—the Bluejays stranded 12 runners in the game—but the host team struggled to record timely hits. Tabor left the bases loaded in the top of the third and stranded two in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

“We weren’t squaring up a lot of balls, and he was able to get some key strikeouts in key situations,” Standiford said. “We’d get a guy or a couple guys in scoring position and then weren’t able to put the ball in play.”

Manny DeLeon drove in a run with a double in the fifth inning. In the ninth inning, Shaw worked a leadoff walk and scored on a passed ball, but by that point, it was merely a formality.

Ryan Neufeld was 2-for-3 at-bat. Jahaziel Cantu absorbed the pitching loss, giving up three hits and two runs (one earned) without securing an out in the first inning.

“The team we played is very good,” Standiford said. “They pitch very well and they swing the bats very well. When you’re able to do that at a high level, you’re going to be a tough team to beat. I wouldn’t mind playing them again at full strength, but that’s just not the way it’s going to be in a tournament.”

Tabor 12, Wayland Baptist 7

NAIA Opening Rd Game 4, Thursday

Thursday became a waiting game as rain showers moved through Hutchinson. The game, originally scheduled for an 11 a.m. start, did not get underway until nearly 5 p.m., and the teams played through rain even then.

The Bluejay bats came alive as Tabor scored in each of the first five innings, hanging crooked numbers in both the third and fourth half-innings.

Having already made adjustments to his lineup, coach Mark Standiford did so again, this time putting Ryan Neufeld in the two-hole.

After scoring once in each of the first two innings, the Bluejays blew the game open with a five run third inning. With the bases loaded, Dalton Iveans hit a two-out, three-run double, and Colton Flax followed with a two-run home run.

Tabor loaded the bases in the fourth inning for DeLeon ,who lifted the first pitch he saw over the center field fence for a grand slam—his 25th home run on the season, a statistic that ranks first nationally.

Tabor added its final run in the fifth inning.

Wayland Baptist scored once in the fourth inning, then hit three-run home runs in both the fifth and seventh innings.

“We finally swung the bat like we can, and I’m hoping that kind of becomes contagious,” Standiford said. “I’ve switched some guys around, and trying to put some guys in a better situation (to) succeed.”

Colton Flax was 3-for-4 at-bat and had two RBIs. Iveans was 3-for-5 and drove in three runs. DeLeon drove in four runs on 2-for-4 hitting.

Colton Moore earned the pitching win. He gave up five hits and four runs (three earned) in five innings of work. He walked three batters and struck out four.

Tabor 3, Morningside 1

NAIA Opening Rd Gm 3, Wednesday

Tabor stayed alive to fight another day by defeating the Mustangs in the Bluejays’ second game of the day.

Tabor put up single tallies in the third, fourth and eighth innings.

AJ Shaw drove in a run with a third-inning RBI single, and Dalton Iveans recorded a fourth-inning base hit to plate Tabor’s second run. A single off the bat of Alex Couch in the eighth inning scored Tabor’s third and final run.

Morningside used one hit to score once in the seventh inning.

Three Bluejays were 2-for-4 at-bat, including Couch, who had one RBI; Raulier Martinez and Ryan Neufeld.

Cedric Rodriguez earned the pitching win. He scattered five hits and one run (earned) over 61⁄3 innings of work. He walked one batter and struck out six.

Greg Turner was credited with the save, pitching 22⁄3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out four Mustangs without surrendering a hit.

Morningside came into the game after a 24-1 loss to Science and Arts in which the Mustangs used six pitchers.

Tabor 4, Mayville State 3

NAIA Opening Rd Gm 2, Wednesday

Facing elimination and needing an offensive spark, coach Mark Standiford made some changes to the Bluejay lineup for Tabor’s second tournament game.

Bluejay fans saw adjustments made to both the batting order and the defensive lineup, including the addition of Dalton Iveans at first base.

“We were in a—I don’t know what you would even call it—a funk or something,” Standiford said. “We just needed something, so I changed it up a little bit hoping to see if we can get some guys right, both physically and mentally.

“Some guys that did get a chance, played well today.”

The Bluejays used a big fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead. Manny DeLeon led off with a single, and Couch, who had moved from first to third base defensively, followed with an RBI triple. Kaden Cline drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, then Iveans launched the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to conclude scoring in the frame.

Bluejay starter Thomas Longworth pitched seven scoreless innings before surrendering a run, but Mayville State began to make noise in the eighth.

Mayville State scored twice in the frame to close the gap to 3-2 before Tabor’s second reliever, Greg Turner, worked out of a bases-loaded jam.

In the ninth inning, Mayville State used a pair of singles and an RBI double to tie the game.

With three outs to work with, pinch hitter Colton Flax led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. His pinch runner, Haydon Mahe-Liessmann later stole second base and advanced to third on Iveans’ sacrifice bunt. Then Raulier Martinez, who had no hits in his last 13 at-bats, stepped to the plate and lifted an RBI single to shallow center to give the Bluejays the walk-off win.

Couch and Iveans were each 2-for-3 at-bat. Each drove in a run. DeLeon was 2-for-4.

Turner earned the pitching win. In 11⁄3 innings of relief, he gave up three hits and one run (earned) while walking one batter and striking out no one.

Wayland Baptist 4, Tabor 2

NAIA Opening Rd Game 1, Tuesday

Tabor’s bats struggled in the Bluejays’ first game of the NAIA Opening Round tournament in Hutchinson. Tabor batted a collective .188 against the 23rd-ranked Pioneers, recording six hits and three errors.

Things started well, as AJ Shaw hit a leadoff single and scored on Couch’s RBI single. The Bluejays took a 2-0 lead when Manny DeLeon hit a one-out triple in the third inning and scored on Couch’s ground out.

However, after recording four hits in the first three innings, Tabor managed just two hits over the final six.

The Pioneers, meanwhile, used three hits and an error to score three runs in the fourth and added a fourth run in the seventh off a pair of hits.

A controversial seventh-inning play at third base, in which Joel Frias was called out, left Tabor with one base runner and two outs.

“I felt like the tag came in and forced his hand off, and you can’t do that,” coach Mark Standiford said. “I argued it because it was a big time. We’re looking at second and third with one out in a game like that. Instead we’re at second and two outs.

“That call didn’t beat us. We put ourselves in a position where that mattered.”

Tabor stranded one in the seventh and one in the eighth.

Couch was 2-for-4 at-bat and drove in two runs.

Dylan Algra sustained the pitching loss. He gave up eight hits and four runs (all earned) in six innings of work. He walked no one and struck out one batter.

Greg Turner pitched two scoreless innings of relief.

“Hitting is contagious, there’s no doubt,” Standiford said. “When we’re going good, everybody’s going good. We just have some guys right now (who) have not struggled all year until right now.

“Our pitchers did outstanding. It was really a shame to not win (that) ball game.”

Season reflections

Tabor finished the season with an overall record of 45-18. The Bluejays ranked among the top 10 nationally in 14 different categories, including ranking second in runs scored per game (8.98) and hits (741).

Tabor ranked third in runs scored (566), runs batted in (506), RBI per game (8.03), at-bats (2,114), doubles (146), and hits per game (11.76). The Bluejays ranked fourth in home runs per game (1.38), batting average (.351) and slugging percentage (.557).

As a team, the Bluejays set Tabor records for runs, hits, runs batted in and home runs (87).

Over the past two years, this year’s seniors won 99 games. In that time frame, the Bluejays qualified for the World Series once, won two KCAC regular-season titles (as part of an ongoing five-year streak), and won one KCAC tournament championship.

“They’re not used to losing, that’s for sure,” Standiford said of his seniors. “They need to be proud of what they’ve accomplished these last couple years, and know that they’ve made our program better by being here.”

Tabor has qualified for post-season play for five consecutive years, advancing to the World Series in 2014 and 2015, losing in the Grand Rapids regional championship in 2012, and coming one game short of the Santa Barbara regional championship in 2013.

Standiford said with the Bluejays’ successes in recent years, it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to qualify for the nation’s biggest stage.

“When the bar is set so high that you have to get to the World Series—which it is, that’s our goal every year—you don’t want to take it for granted,” he said. “It is very difficult to get there.”

Standiford recalled the adversity the Bluejays battled over the course of the year in losing some arms and a catcher early in the season. Yet Tabor still recorded 40-plus wins for the sixth year in a row.

“To have the season that we did and finish like we did, I think that we all can be very proud,” he said.

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