LEWISTON, Idaho – (Box Score) Julian Merryweather tossed a complete-game – his fifth of the season – three-hit shutout to lead No. 1 Oklahoma Baptist to a 3-1 victory over No. 9 Tabor (Kan.) in Saturday action at the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series. The victory is the 25th in the last 26 games for the Bison.
Merryweather posted his sixth game with at least 10 strike outs, fanning 14 Bluejays over the course of nine innings. In his last three starts – all complete games – the senior right-hander has struck out 41 batters. The one run surrendered by Merryweather was unearned.
“Julian (Merryweather) was unreal,” said Oklahoma Baptist head coach Bobby Cox. “He’s been that way for us all year. That’s nothing unusual for him, that’s kind of what we expected of him. He was commanding three pitches, he was in the low-to-mid 90’s all day.”
With the win, Oklahoma Baptist (54-7) ties a program single-season record for victories with 54 and advances to play defending World Series champion Faulkner (Ala.) at 3 p.m. on Monday. Tabor, which is making its first-ever appearance in the event, falls into the elimination bracket to play No. 6 Georgia Gwinnett at 9 a.m. on Monday.
Through five innings, the two teams were deadlocked at 1-1. Oklahoma Baptist drew first blood, scoring the game’s opening run in the second inning on a Ridge Hoopii-Haslam RBI single through the left side of the infield that scored Garrett Roberts from third.
Tabor responded in the top of the fifth after an error and fielder’s choice put pinch runner Ryan Neufeld at second base for NAIA batting average leader Kirk Rocha. Rocha wasted no time, slapping a 1-1 pitch into shallow right-center to drive in Neufeld.
A pair Bluejay miscues in the sixth and seventh led to another pair of Bison runs, giving Oklahoma Baptist a 3-1 lead that Tabor would not threaten the rest of the way.
Oklahoma Baptist leadoff hitter Joey Szczepanski, who entered the national championship with at least one hit in 12 of his last 13 appearances, finished the game a team-best 3-for-4 at the plate. The junior outfielder was the only Bison with more than one hit.
Tabor starting pitcher Jacob Webb nearly matched his counterpart pitch-for-pitch in the game. Webb, who falls to 11-4 on the year with the loss, scattered six hits and allowed three runs (one earned) in eight innings of work. The sophomore hurler struck out three and walked four in the loss.
“Their guy was good too,” said Cox. “(Jacob) Webb is outstanding and we knew that coming in, that he would be really tough, and he was. He was really good.”
With the victory, the No. 1 seed improves to 10-2 all-time in its opening game since the current seeding format began in 2003.
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.