From OBU Sports Info.
Casady Fletcher, Assistant
LEWISTON, Idaho – Top-ranked Oklahoma Baptist defeated defending champion Faulkner (Ala.) 7-2 in the Avista-NAIA World Series at Harris Field Monday evening.
The Bison (55-7) trailed for much of the game, and did not take the lead until the bottom of the eighth inning. OBU scored five runs in the frame to break a 2-2 tie. With the win, the Bison set a new program record for most wins in a season at 55.
Kelvin Rivas struggled to start the game for the Bison, walking four runners in the first inning to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. It took Rivas 41 pitches to get out of the inning, but he settled down and did not allow another run. He did not factor into the decision after lasting 6.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits while walking six batters.
“I think the first inning was so pivotal. Kelvin wasn’t very good at the beginning, struggling with command, but he minimized and we got out of that inning with bases loaded, only giving up two runs,” said OBU head coach Bobby Cox. “That gave us a chance to catch our breath a little bit and hang with him.”
The Eagles (50-15) also had a rough start to the game. Right-hander Jay Gause struggled to begin the game, issuing three walks in the bottom of the first. OBU was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, stranding two runners on base.
With runners on the corners, Gause balked to bring home Kevin Hatch for the first OBU run of the game.
After Gause retired 10 straight OBU hitters, the Bison bats finally awoke in the bottom of the sixth. Steven Knudson reached base after being hit by a pitch, and Tyler Melton came in as a pinch runner. Melton came around to score on a single from Garrett Roberts to tie up the game 2-2. OBU left the bases full of Bison to end the inning.
Right-hander Jinny Parra entered the game with two outs in the top of the seventh for the Bison. He shut down the Eagles over the final 2.1 innings, allowing just one hit to improve to 8-2 on the season.
“(Parra) is a guy that can either start, bridge or close. It doesn’t matter to him when you talk about roles or anything like that,” said Cox. “He’s just going to come in and help us win the ballgame. He kept the ball down and had his slider going which made him hard to handle.”
The Bison took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the eighth. Garrett Gallacher singled home Ivan Vela from second to put OBU on top 3-2. With the bases loaded, Joey Szczepanski singled to right, driving in pinch runner Frankie Wright and left fielder Hatch. Ridge Hoopii-Haslam scored and Szczepanski advanced to third on a Faulkner error. Designated hitter Jeff Ricker then hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Szczepanski.
Szczepanski finished 1-for-4 with a game-high two RBI and scored a run. Hatch was 1-for-2 with two runs scored in the winning effort.
Gause fell to 4-3 on the year after allowing three earned runs on three hits, striking out five batters but issuing seven bases on balls.
“That may be the best right-hander we’ve seen all year, as far as velocity and command, he was really good,” said Cox. “We’ve been the kind of team all year where we get into those situations we grind out some at bats late.”
Patrick McGrady recorded just one out in relief for the Eagles, giving up three runs on just one hit. Labradford Griffis collected the final two outs, giving up one run on one hit.
OBU stays in the winner’s bracket and will play the winner of Cumberland (Tenn.) and Oklahoma Wesleyan in the feature game of the day at 8:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday at Harris Field.