HUTCHINSON, Kan.– At Hobart-Detter Field in Hutchinson, Kan., Sterling College (42-12) came back from a six run deficit to advance past Tabor College (40-12) into tomorrow's KCAC Baseball Championship Tournament Final. The Warriors scored eight unanswered runs in the final five innings to send the Bluejays to play in the loser's bracket final against Kansas Wesleyan University at 7:00 pm this evening.
Tabor was firing on all cylinders in the first inning. After the Bluejays' Brian Kowal retired the side in order to start the inning, Tabor strung together three runs on three hits to jump ahead in the bottom of the first inning.
Neither team would score in the second or third innings, but Tabor would strike again in the bottom of the fourth. After Tabor's Spencer Putman and Colby Tessendorf each reached on two out errors by the Warriors, KCAC Player of the Year Art Corona sent a three run bomb over the right-center fence to give Tabor a 6-0 lead.
Sterling answered with one run in the top of the fifth before the Warrior bats exploded in the top of the sixth. In the sixth, Daniel Hall opened the inning with a double which was one of four Warriors hits that resulted in five runs on two Tabor errors. After six, the score was tied at 6-6.
Base running would be effective for Sterling in the seventh. Jared Forbush would steal second base with two outs, putting himself in scoring position. Matt Watson would respond with a RBI single off of Kowal to give Sterling a 7-6 lead.
Stephen Rodgers would hit a sacrifice fly for Sterling in the top of the ninth to score Brock Moss and give Sterling an insurance run and an 8-6 advantage, setting up a crucial bottom of the inning.
Matt Eshleman, who replaced Sterling starter and KCAC Pitcher of the Year Daniel Cloteaux in the eighth inning, got Tabor's Tyler Kozolowski to ground out to start the inning. Koby Temple then singled for the Bluejays. Adam McCormick, representing the tying run at the plate, then lined out to center field to set up the matchup between Eshleman and pinch hitter Bret Lentz.
Eshleman would work ahead in the count 0-2, but Lentz would respond by drawing three straight balls. The sixth pitch of the at bat would prove to be the last pitch of the game as Lentz went down looking and Sterling would win 8-6.
Cloteaux, who went 7.0 innings giving up six runs, three earned, on 10 hits and three strikeouts on 136 pitches earned the win.
Kowal, who went 7.0 innings giving up seven runs, four earned, on 12 hits and two strikeouts on 101 pitches picked up the loss for Tabor.
Eshleman pitched 2.0 innings of relief and gave up only one hit with two strikeouts to earn the save for Sterling.
The Warriors advance to tomorrow's championship and will play the winner of Kansas Wesleyan/Tabor at 3:00 pm while Tabor will play Kansas Wesleyan in the loser's bracket championship at 7:00 pm tonight.