Tabor baseball bigger and better than ever

Tabor College baseball has reached historic highs. While the program has had occasional success in the past, the past six years under Coach Mark Standiford have been utterly amazing.

Credit Standiford with doing a remarkable job of recruiting talent and fielding exceptionally competitive teams in Hillsboro.

Consider that Tabor finished in the top six in the NAIA this year, going 2-2 in the NAIA World Series this spring. It was the first time a team from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Confer?ence has ever won a game in the NAIA World Series.

The Bluejays finished the 2014 season with a 51-13 record. Their final No. 6 ranking in the NAIA top 25 poll is the highest finish in school history.

In six years at Tabor, Standiford has compiled a record of 232 wins and 107 losses and the Bluejays have won the KCAC title the past three years.

Yes, Tabor?s got talent. Sophomore Jacob Webb was selected in the 18th round of the Major League Draft, pick No. 533 by the Atlanta Braves recently. He?s the first pitcher ever to be drafted in Tabor College history and second player overall. Catcher Tyson Kendrick was selected by the Detroit Tigers in June 2010.

To the victor go the spoils, and the NAIA bestowed three Bluejay players with All-American honors for their performances this season.

Junior Mustain earned Second Team All-American honors with a 12-2 record and a 1.91 ERA in 99 innings pitched.

Outfielder Kirk Rocha and Webb received Honor?able Mention All-American honors.

The lengthy roster features student-athletes from coast to coast as well as Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Canada. Players hail from such cities as Miami, Las Vegas and St. Louis. About one dozen of the student-athletes hail from Kansas, albeit none are from Marion County.

Standiford?s teams have broken school records in wins, runs, hits, batting average, runs batted in, doubles, home runs, base on balls, fielding percentage and strikeouts. By the time this column ends, they may have broken my record for superlatives.

Standiford, called ?the most prolific power hitter in Shocker baseball history,? was a standout from 1985-88 at Wichita State. He hit 69 home runs, a mark that still stands as the all-time team record. He led the Shockers to the 1988 College World Series, where he was named to the all-tournament team. He has since been inducted to the Wichita State Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Fame, Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame and Wichita Sports Hall of Fame.

Landing Standiford has been golden for Tabor.

Lest you forget, it wasn?t always that way. I know, because I was there.

When I was a pitcher on the Tabor baseball team in 1979, we weren?t a laughingstock, but we weren?t much more than marginally competitive either. The fact I was one of the team?s top starting pitchers should tell you how much better the pitching is today.

They say that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. I would beg to differ, at least when I was on the mound.

I gave up one of the longest home runs ever. I don?t just mean at Tabor; I mean ever.

Our home games were played at the hitter-friendly confines of Memorial Field. An opposing player launched?and I mean launched?one of my pitches over the lights in left field. I think it landed near the Adobe House pond. It may still be at the bottom of the pond for all I know.

In one game, we had the bases loaded and our player at first took off for second, not realizing second base was already occupied.

And there was the time a base hit went through our right fielder?s legs all the way to the wall. A fan for the opposing team yelled, ?That?s OK. The wall will stop it.?

In spite of all the losses, we had some good moments, such as beating Fort Hays State, 3-1.

Maybe we weren?t great, but we did get the program started.

I?m not surprised the baseball program got better, but who knew it would ever get this good?

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