Sweep boosts Bluejays KCAC record to 6-8

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Bluejays pinch runner Anthony Williamson flies through the third base turn during the second game of Tabor?s doubleheader sweep of Friends Saturday. Tabor also swept the Falcons on Friday.

With a sweep of consecutive double-headers against Friends, the Tabor College baseball team suddenly flies in the middle of the thick flock of Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference teams swarming after frontrunning Saint Mary.

Having four of their previous six games grounded by foul weather, Tabor scratched its collective itch to play by adding a visit to Oklahoma State April 1.

The Cowboys dropped a 15-0 shutout on the Bluejays?but Tabor?s confidence began to climb.

?We played them tough for about four or five innings, and had a couple of things that hurt us,? coach Mark Standiford said. ?They are one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country. We didn?t go down there with great expectations?we wanted to compete, and I think it gave us a little bit of confidence.?

?A little bit? may be an understatement: when the Bluejays swung into Wichita for the first half of the weekend home-and-home at Friends, they hit the Falcons as hard as they have hit anything all year.

And thanks to the heavy winds that deposited fly ball after fly ball on the far side of the outfield fences, the hard hits translated into high scores.

?We were trying to get guys to relax a little bit, go back to some basic mechanics and some basic thoughts?we were kind of overthinking at the plate?so we?ve been trying to get back to swinging the way we were early in the year,? Standiford said.

The Bluejays outscored Friends 49-23 in the four-game set. The teams combined for 21 home runs.

If Tabor stole its 11-9 first-game victory over the team picked second in the KCAC preseason polls, then the Bluejays asserted full ownership of the second contest Friday, 13-0. Tabor carried Saturday?s games 14-7 and 11-7.

?We came into the games Friday and Saturday understanding that we would give up some home runs,? Standiford said. ?The key was not to walk anybody prior to home runs, and to not give up extra outs with errors.

?Our pitchers did a very good job on a difficult day to pitch,? he added. ?The wind was a huge factor, and we were able to take advantage of it a few times?and so was Friends. The key was being able to keep home runs to single shots or even 2-run home runs.?

The Falcons out-homered the Bluejays 12-9 in the series, but stout pitching proved decisive.

?Paul Bridenbaugh had one of the best weekends he?s ever had, both offensively and on the mound,? Standiford said. ?He came in and closed three games for us?I don?t think he got a save for all of them?but he pitched the last two innings of three games. That says a lot about him?he?s our guy we go to late.?

He held the Falcons to six hits in six innings, striking out two without allowing a walk. With seven hits in his 11 at bats, Bridenbaugh scored more than twice as many runs (7) as he allowed (3).

Bridenbaugh entered the opener with a 9-8 lead in the bottom of the sixth and stiffarmed the Falcons to earn the save in starting pitcher Andrew Cook?s win.

Dustin Dick cranked two doubles, drove in four runs and scored once. Bridenbaugh, Ryan Boucher and Brad Zewe each scored twice.

In the early game Saturday, Bridenbaugh worked back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to deliver the ?W? earned by Wes Stancher.

Tanner Stevenson homered and drove in four runs. CJ Henrichsen, Bridenbaugh, Dick and Mike Chaput each scored twice.

Bridenbaugh brought home the bacon for a third time in Zewe?s win in the finale.

Bridenbaugh, Stevenson, Tyson Kendrick and Cook each hit a home run; Bridenbaugh, Kendrick, Henrichsen and pinch runner Anthony Williamson each scored twice.

The only starter who did not lean on Bridenbaugh?s performance was Tyler Fenton, who in the second game Friday strung together a five-hit shutout in what turned into a five inning mercy rule game.

?He threw a shutout with the wind blowing extremely hard out to left,? Standiford said. ?That shutout would have been difficult under normal conditions.?

The Tabor offense ended the game early with homers from Dick and Henrichsen. Dick also tripled, and drove in four runs. Dick, Henrichsen, Williamson and Boucher each scored twice.

Though it has been an Achilles? Heel at times in 2009, the Bluejay defense contributed to the sweep.

?We played pretty decent defense,? Standiford said. ?That?s been our struggle most of the year, but the defense came through this week and helped us minimize the big innings. I really can?t find a negative, I think we played pretty well.?

Coming?Tabor (15-19) faced Manhattan Christian Tuesday followed by a home-and-home with Sterling Friday and Saturday.

?This got us back into the hunt, but we?re just barely back into it,? Standiford said. ?Sterling is first or second, right at the top of the conference.

?(The players) are feeling very good about themselves, and they should be,? he said. ?We played very well. But the key in baseball is: you?re only as good as your next game, not the one you just played. So we have to take care of the next game (against Manhattan Christian), then we can move on from there.?

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