By: Nicholas Petrone, Central Methodist (Mo.) Sports Information Director
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Eagles' coach Pat Reardon collected his 600th-career win Friday, and No. 14 Central Methodist is headed back to the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship Series title game for a fourth-straight season after defeating Baker (Kan.) 3-1 and MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 5-2 at Blue Valley Recreation Complex.
The Eagles battle the winner of two-seed MidAmerica Nazarene/five-seed Benedictine (Kan.) on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT in the 2014 title game and must be defeated twice. With one win Saturday, the 2014 Eagles' squad would tie the 2011 and 2012 teams for most wins in a single season in school history.
The story of game one for Central Methodist (40-6) was pitcher Aubrey Utley, who improved to 23-1 with a complete-game win in the circle. The senior pitcher allowed just one earned run on four hits with nine strikeouts and, who tossed her second-career no-hitter against Baker (22-24) last season, had a perfect game going with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning until Tara Chumley found some green with a bloop single to right field. Utley has 548 career strikeouts, three shy of breaking Chelsea Fuemmeler's career school record of 550, which was recorded from 2008-10.
The Eagles broke a scoreless tie by tallying two runs with two outs in the top of the second inning, starting when Megan Robbins scored on a throwing error by Peyton Weekly. A Lindie Adair RBI single in the next at-bat made the score 2-0.
Michele Rupard went deep to left-center in the fifth inning for the sixth time this season and second in two days to increase the Eagles' edge to three runs.
The Wildcats finally got on the board in the sixth when Chumley scored on a Cami Williams RBI single with two outs. Baker put the tying run in scoring position, but an Utley strikeout ended the inning and the threat.
Rupard, Robbins, Adair and Mary Kate Townley each had one hit in the win.
Four Wildcats each had one hit.
Katt Cooper (11-9) went the distance in the circle but took the loss, allowing three runs, one earned, on four hits with nine strikeouts and a walk.
Adair did much of the heavy lifting offensively in the Eagles' second game of the day. The junior, who doubled her home run total this season Friday, cranked three hits, including two two-run dingers, and tallied four RBIs and two runs scored.
A Hayley Gately RBI single in the bottom of the first inning gave MidAmerica Nazarene (25-12) a 1-0 edge, but the Eagles' first deficit of the 2014 Championship Series lasted all of seven minutes, as Robbins tied the affair in the top of the second inning with her eighth bomb of the season, second of the tournament and fourth in as many games. With two outs, Adair crushed her first home run off Taylor Pearcy to give the Eagles a 3-1 upper hand.
Adair's second bomb of the contest cleared the left field fence with two outs in the fourth inning to make the cushion four runs. The Eagles have totaled 43 home runs this season, an all-time high in program history.
A Chelsey Streibich RBI single with two outs in the seventh cut the Wildcats' deficit to three runs, but a line out ended the day and improved the Eagles to 11-0 all-time in the Championship Series at the Blue Valley Recreation Complex.
Jessica Wilmes had two hits in the win. Robbins scored twice.
Lynsey Keith had two hits in the loss.
Bri Ford (15-2) went the distance in the circle for the win, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and three walks.
Pearcy (5-4), the lone pitcher to defeat the Eagles this season in league play, suffered the defeat Friday. She lasted three innings, giving up four earned runs on four hits with two walks.
With the win against the Pioneers, Reardon becomes only the 12th active coach in NAIA history to reach 600 wins and the fourth this season to accomplish the feat.