MBU Baseball advances to NAIA World Series
KINGSPORT, Tenn. – For the first time in Missouri Baptist University baseball history, the Spartans will head to the Avista-NAIA World Series after outlasting Tennessee Wesleyan in a 19-inning marathon on Monday afternoon, 4-3.
It was an epic battle to the finish as both teams refused to quit in the championship game of the Kingsport Bracket of the NAIA Opening Round Tournament. Down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Tennessee Wesleyan was down to its final out and mounted one of the most unbelievable comebacks of 2013 with the season on the line. The Bulldogs posted two runs to send the game into extra innings and the game became an instant classic from this point forward.
“(Ethan) Gibbons was throwing the ball well, so we had no reason to take him out in the ninth,” said head coach Eddie Uschold. “All we could think was just to get it to the 10th at that point.”
This is Uschold’s first trip to the Avista-NAIA World Series after 14 years as the coach of Missouri Baptist.
Tennessee Wesleyan (45-17) began the scoring in the bottom of the third. After two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out, Missouri Baptist starter Ethan Gibbons struck-out the second batter on a wild pitch, which scored Bulldog second baseman Brad Carpenter, and gave his team a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans tied it in the fourth inning. Pier Olivier-Dostaler doubled down the left field line to lead-off the inning, bringing-up Garrett Vail. The catcher singled to right-center and scored Dostaler making it a tie ballgame.
Missouri Baptist came through in the top of the seventh to take the lead. With one on and one out, Joe Stropp came to the plate and delivered. The Spartan designated hitter launched a ball deep over the left-field wall to put MBU up 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, with one on and one out, Spartan shortstop Patrick Johnson made a dazzling play to turn the 6-4-3 double play. On a ball to his right, Johnson slid and threw from his knees to second to turn the first out as Dostaler finished it off to get the team safely out of the inning.
Missouri Baptist looked to be on the verge of winning the game, but Tennessee Wesleyan came back to tie it with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the ninth. Two consecutive singles and an error by Dostaler allowed the first of two runs to score in the inning and Tennessee Wesleyan was back in business.
After turning to star closer Noah Piard in the top of the ninth, Tennessee Wesleyan held the Spartans hitless through two and a two-thirds of an inning before Ricky Pagan broke through in the top of the 11th with a single to shallow left field, but Stropp struck-out to end the top-half of the inning.
Missouri Baptist countered with game two starter Julien Soucy, who came on to pitch in the bottom of the 10th in relief of the starter, Ethan Gibbons. Soucy allowed two walks in the 10th, but settled down quickly and retired the side in the bottom of the 11th. The senior went four innings and allowed just two hits in the game.
The Bulldogs reached deep into their bullpen as the game grew longer. Six pitchers entered the game for Tennessee Wesleyan. The staff allowed 14 hits in 19 innings to Missouri Baptist, who finished the tournament with a .329 batting average as a team.
In extra innings, Missouri Baptist left six runners stranded in scoring position as opposed to Tennessee Wesleyan’s four as the Spartan defense held strong throughout.
In the top of the 19th, with bases loaded and one out, Garrett Vail hit a sacrifice fly to score what became the game-winning run. Missouri Baptist’s Matt Marsh closed the game out after tossing a season-high six innings in relief.
“Marsh told us he still felt good, so we kept sending him out there,” said Uschold. “His pitches were solid throughout. It was his game.”
Missouri Baptist’s 19-inning victory was the longest in NAIA National Championship Opening Round history.
“The entire Spartan family are proud of Coach Uschold, his staff, and of course our student-athletes,” said Missouri Baptist Director of Athletics, Dr. Tom Smith.
Coach Uschold has led a class act program since his first year, and celebrating 500 wins at MBU this season, I couldn’t think of a more fitting accomplishment then to advance to the NAIA World Series.”
The Avista-NAIA World Series will begin play on May 24, 2013 in Lewiston, Idaho.