Eagles tie Shorter after losing to Bluefield; now need help at NCCAA World Series

OC pinch-runner Markus Carr looks to advance on the basepaths as Shorter shortstop Zach Santos keeps an eye on him during Thursday night's game.
OC pinch-runner Markus Carr looks to advance on the basepaths as Shorter shortstop Zach Santos keeps an eye on him during Thursday night's game.

MASON, Ohio (May 15, 2014) – The Oklahoma Christian Eagles didn’t help themselves on Thursday at the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series, and now they’ll need help to reach the semifinals.

Top-seeded OC managed only seven hits, twice blew late leads and ended up tying ninth-seeded Shorter (Ga.) 5-5 in a pool-play game after the tournament’s three-hour time limit was reached late Thursday at Legacy Field. The tie came after the Eagles lost 6-3 to fifth-seeded Bluefield (Va.) earlier in the day at Prasco Park.

The day’s results left OC at 1-1-1 with one game remaining in pool play, on Friday at noon against fourth-seeded Fresno Pacific (Calif.), which leads the pool with a 2-0 record, followed by Bluefield at 2-1. To qualify for the semifinals, OC (38-16-1) must beat Fresno Pacific, then hope that either Fresno Pacific loses to Trinity Christian (Ill.) (0-2) or Bluefield loses to Shorter (0-1-1).

“It was a very frustrating day all around,” OC coach Lonny Cobble said. “I would have never imagined the day going like this when we woke up this morning. I’m disappointed that we didn’t hit at all these last two days. We have pitched OK. I would like to have both those games back.

“We need some guys to step up tomorrow and get us going. We have a chance to still get in with some help.”

Against Shorter (15-35-1), each team scored one run in each of their first three at-bats. The Eagles took a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth inning, when Sean Murphy singled, took second on an error, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Zac Cobble.

It looked for several innings like the Eagles would hang on to that lead the rest of the way. Luke Sandoval, Dylon Sturges and Eddie Broll combined to throw four straight shutout innings before the Hawks broke through in the bottom of the eighth against Broll, with Jesse Gavigan hitting a solo home run.

OC answered in the top of the ninth, taking a 5-4 lead. Garrett Stephenson drew a leadoff walk and Markus Carr pinch-ran for him and stole second base. Carr took third on a groundout by Cory Eastwood and scored on Zac Cobble’s sacrifice fly.

The Eagles brought in Dillon Endecott to try and close the game, but Endecott – so effective all season with 13 saves – instead recorded his second straight blown save. Zach Santos led off for the Hawks with a single up the middle and pinch-runner Darrius Jennings eventually scored on a single to center field by Ian Redetzky.

The tie was the first for OC since Feb. 9, 2008, when the Eagles tied Peru State (Neb.) 14-14 in the second game of the season-opening doubleheader – the program’s second game since the university revived it after a seven-year layoff.

In the first game Thursday, a pair of bad innings cost the Eagles in the 6-3 loss to Bluefield (38-16), which picked up a complete-game three-hitter on the mound from Ryan Shockey (9-4).

Robert Rosser reached on an error and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Cory Eastwood to put OC ahead briefly in the top of the second, but the Rams quickly answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning off OC starter Kelby Reneau (5-1).

Bluefield took the lead on a two-run single by Chris McCollister and picked up another run when McCollister scored after errors by Reneau (fielding) and catcher Cameron Keener (throwing) on separate plays.

The Rams made it 5-1 in the third, with Jacob Wright’s RBI double down the left-field line keying a two-run inning that ended Reneau’s day early.

OC relievers Ryan Nash and Matt Brown were solid the rest of the game, save for a solo home run by Wright in the bottom of the fifth, but the Eagles couldn’t take advantage offensively. OC scored once in the top of the fifth, when Eastwood led off with a triple and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Zac Cobble, but the Eagles left Cobble stranded at third base.

In the seventh, Garrett Stephenson led off with a single up the middle and Eastwood walked, giving the Eagles a pair of baserunners, but only Stephenson – who came home on a groundout by A.J. Florence – scored. Shockey retired OC’s final nine batters after Eastwood walked.

The loss snapped OC’s 11-game winning streak, the longest since the university revived the baseball program with the 2008 season.