Eagles beat Central Baptist, Ecclesia to reach NCCAA regional final

OC reliever Ryan Nash picked up his first win of the season in the Eagles' romp over Ecclesia.
OC reliever Ryan Nash picked up his first win of the season in the Eagles' romp over Ecclesia.

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 8, 2013) – Their season on the line, the Oklahoma Christian Eagles snapped a five-game losing streak with a pair of wins – one dramatic, one easy – on Wednesday in the National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region baseball tournament.

The Eagles first squeaked by Central Baptist (Ark.) 5-4 in an elimination game, winning in walk-off fashion on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Caleb Price. They had a considerably easier time in the second game, riding an eight-run third inning to a 15-2 win over Ecclesia (Ark.) at Dobson Field.

OC (24-23) will play Ecclesia (25-21) on Thursday at 3 p.m. for a berth in the NCCAA Championship, set for May 15-18 in Mason, Ohio. OC has not played in a national tournament since 1972, when the Eagles took third place in the NAIA World Series.

The Eagles dropped into the losers’ bracket after falling 2-0 to Central Baptist on Tuesday afternoon, but CBC lost 6-4 to Ecclesia on Tuesday night, leaving OC and the Mustangs to play in the tournament’s first elimination game.

The game went down to the last at-bat. Jordan Lopez drew a walk on four pitches from Central Baptist reliever Craig Thornton (1-2) to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Markus Carr followed with a bunt single and both runners advanced after Thornton overthrew first baseman Blake Dixon.

Chase Smith replaced Thornton and intentionally walked Dillon Andrews to load the bases. The Mustangs took out their centerfielder and put in a fifth infielder, looking to cut off any ground ball on the infield, but Price hit a short fly ball to right field. Lopez easily beat the throw home to give the Eagles the win.

Lopez went 2-for-3 with a double, a triple, an RBI and two runs scored. His bloop double down the right-field line in the first started a two-run inning for OC.

Trailing 3-1 entering the fourth, Central Baptist (26-27) rallied with five singles to score three runs in the fourth inning off OC starter Kelby Reneau to take a 4-3 lead. OC closer Chris Burgess came in to retire leadoff batter Brady Brashier and end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, Caden Cleveland singled. Price, pinch-running for Cleveland, eventually scored on a two-out single by Cory Eastwood.

The Eagles turned four double plays during the game, severely limiting Central Baptist’s offensive opportunities. Burgess (6-0) needed just 23 pitches to record the game’s final 10 outs.

OC had a much easier time of it against Ecclesia, scoring in each of the first four innings and finishing with 16 hits and a season-high 15 runs.

Eastwood keyed a four-run second inning with a run-scoring double and OC continued pounding Ecclesia starter David Torres (4-6) in the third. OC sent 12 batters to the plate during the inning, with nine straight reaching base in one stretch. Price smashed a three-run home run off reliever Cole Teague to cap the outburst and give the Eagles a 13-0 lead.

Every OC starter had at least one hit. Lopez went 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI while Eastwood went 3-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Tyler Sturges, Brock Werdel and Ryan Nash each pitched two innings and Luke Sandoval threw one inning for OC. Nash (1-0) picked up the win, recording three strikeouts during his stint.