LEWISTON, Idaho – (Box Score) Five runs in the bottom of the eighth proved to be the difference, as No. 1 Oklahoma Baptist knocked off No. 4 Faulkner (Ala.), 7-2, Monday evening at the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series. The win for the Bison snaps a seven-game World Series winning streak for Faulkner.
Junior outfielder Joey Szczepanski’s bases loaded, one out single through the hole between on the right side put the game to rest in eighth inning for Oklahoma Baptist. The single cleared the bases, giving the Bison a 6-2 lead, after the Faulkner right fielder’s throw sailed off-line and into the Bison dugout. Oklahoma Baptist added another the fifth and final run of the inning on a Jeff Ricker sacrifice fly.
With the win, Oklahoma Baptist improves to 55-7 on the year and advances to play the winner of No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan and No. 10 Cumberland (Tenn.) at 6:30 p.m. PDT on Tuesday. Faulkner, which previous had not lost at the World Series since falling to Concordia (Calif.), 7-2, in 2011, drops into the elimination bracket to face No. 2 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) at 12 p.m. PDT on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s banner game.
After a shaky first inning, Oklahoma Baptist starting pitcher Kelvin Rivas settled in, allowing two runs (both earned) on six hits in 6.2 innings of work and a no-decision. The junior right-hander threw 129 pitches and set a season-high with six walks. Jinny Parra (8-2) earned the win for the Bison, allowing only one hit in 2.1 innings of relief.
“I think the first inning was so pivotal,” said Oklahoma Baptist head coach Bobby Cox. “Kelvin wasn’t very good at the beginning, struggling with command, but he minimized and we got out of that inning with the bases loaded, only giving up two runs. That gave us a chance to catch our breath a little bit and hang with him.”
Three-straight walks and a sacrifice fly in the top of the first led to a 2-0 Faulkner lead. However, Oklahoma Baptist limited the damage, as Rivas induced a fielder’s choice and a line out to first baseman Steven Kudson to strand the bases loaded.
The Bison cut the deficit to 2-1 on a Jay Gause balk that scored Kevin Hatch from third. Hatch reach based via an infield single two batters earlier.
Oklahoma Baptist tied the score in the bottom of the sixth on back-to-back singles by Ivan Vela and Garrett Roberts, which plated pinch runner Tyler Melton, who reached base when Knudson was hit-by-pitch on a 0-2 count.
Five different Bison accounted for the squad’s five hits.
Faulkner starter Jay Gause (4-3), who tossed a complete game shutout in his last appearance, was tagged for three runs on three hits in the loss. Gause also struck out five and walked seven.
“A very tough arm we saw today, that’s two days in a row of really good right-handers that we’ve had to face,” said Cox. “That may be the best right-hander we’ve seen all year, as far as velocity and command, he was really good.”
Luis Sanchez led the offense for Faulkner, ending the night 2-for-5 at the dish with a run scored. Sanchez is hitting .478 (11-for-23) in five postseason games this season.
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.