Eagles Battled Past Tabor, 10-9, in 12 innings – NAIA Baseball World Series

OKWU players celebrate. PHOTO: NAIA File
OKWU players celebrate. PHOTO: NAIA File

LEWISTON, Idaho – (Box Score) Junior infielder Jeff Butler emerged as the hero, shooting the game-winning RBI single through the left side in the bottom of the 12th as No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan knocked off No. 9 Tabor (Kan.), 10-9, on Tuesday afternoon at the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series. The contest is the second extra-inning game at this year’s event.

In addition to being the hero, Butler recorded a season-high six hits – all singles – and five RBIs to lead the club. The Riverside, Calif., native also scored one run in the contest. Butler is hitting .629 (9-for-13) at this year’s World Series.

Four other Eagles posted multi-hit performances – Avery Flores, Will Price, Garrett Easton and Brice McCullouch – tallying two hits each.

“It was a great college game,” said Oklahoma Wesleyan head coach Matt Parker. “It was two teams that really didn’t want to go home. This is what baseball is supposed to be like at this level, not necessarily a high scoring game, but a well-played one-run game. It was tremendous to watch.”

With the win, Oklahoma Wesleyan improves to 57-7 and advances to play at either 3 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday. The Eagles, who are making their first-ever World Series appearance this season, will know their official game time and opponent following the conclusion of No. 1 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 10 Cumberland (Tenn.). Tabor, which is also an event newcomer, is eliminated and closes the season with a 51-13 record.

Oklahoma Wesleyan found themselves trailing 9-6 after the Bluejays posted a four-run eighth inning. However, the Eagles refused to layover as designated hitter Will Price opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a leadoff double and scored two batters later when Tabor shortstop Gadiel Baez overthrew the Bluejays’ first baseman.

A walk and single loaded the bases for Butler, who proceeded to slap a 2-2 pitch through the hole at second base, scoring pinch runner Gunner Joyce and Easton to tie the game at 9-9. An intentional walk of Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jose Ruiz again loaded the bases, however the Bluejays were able to get out of the jam as relief pitcher Alex Mann got Cody Riley to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Neither team threatened in the ninth, sending to game into extra innings.

Tabor seized the early momentum with two runs on two hits – a double by Baez and single from Kevin Seeger – en route to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Oklahoma Wesleyan cut into the deficit when Butler scored an unearned run via a Tabor error in the bottom half of the frame.

Tabor extended its advantage to 3-1 in the third, however it was short lived as the Eagles posted a five-run fourth to take a 6-3 lead. Oklahoma Wesleyan scored five runs on five hits, including a single through the left side of the infield by Butler that drove in two.

Back-to-back innings with two out runs left the Bluejays trailing Oklahoma Wesleyan, 6-5, entering the eighth inning. Oklahoma Wesleyan looked poised to roll through the frame, retiring the first two hitters on ground balls. However, a single, hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for Baez with two outs. The junior shortstop, who entered the at-bat 2-for-12 (.167) at the World Series, took full advantage of the situation, clearing the bases with a double to deep left field.

Tabor added another run in the inning as Kirk Rocha singled to right, scoring Baez from second base to make it a 9-6 Bluejay advantage.

Rhett Acker (9-1) earned the victory for Oklahoma Wesleyan, allowing no runs and two hits in 4.1 innings of relief.

Tabor’s Alex Mann (4-3) took the loss. He allowed one run – the game-winner in the 12th inning – in four innings of work.

Five individuals recorded two hits each for Tabor, which entered the contest hitting .165 (14-for-85) at the World Series.

Overall, the two teams combined for 27 hits – the highest combined total at this year’s event.

“This type of a game really takes a toll on you,” said Parker. “For our guys to be able to fight through that and be able to respond. I thought my guys did a tremendous job out there. It’s a tremendous, proud feeling.”

The Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series is a 10-team, double-elimination event hosted by Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho). For more information on the 58th annual championship, click here.

—-NAIA