BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – (RV) Midland University set an NAIA National Championship Opening Round record with eight home runs against No. 18 Indiana Tech in an elimination game on Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough as MU had its season come to an end in a 25-24 loss.
Midland’s 28 hits tied an NAIA Opening Round record and the combined 49 combined runs also set a new record. A total of 14 home runs were hit between the squads.
When the Warriors of Midland and the Warriors of Tech entered Doenges Memorial Stadium and felt the stiff wind with gusts over 25 MPH both teams prepared for the slugfest that was on deck.
“This was a battle between two extremely talented offensive teams with very favorable hitting conditions. It was nearly impossible conditions to pitch in, and you saw Mother Mature come into play early and often with not only the wind but several balls lost in the sun,” said head coach Chad Miller.
Tech, who has outscored opponents 124-23 in the first inning alone this season, followed its successful blueprint with five runs in the top of the first against Midland.
After MU got one run back in the bottom of the first, Tech padded its lead to 6-1 in the top of the second. Midland responded by taking its first lead of the day with a seven-run bottom half of the frame.
Four of Midland’s eight homers came in the second inning as Justin Trevino and Colby Taylor ignited the explosion with back-to-back blasts. Chris Foster and Tanner Bos, who each homered twice on Tuesday, both circled the bases in the frame as well to give MU an 8-6 advantage.
Midland’s biggest lead of the game, 10-6, heading to the top of the fourth inning was short-lived. Matt Bandor’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot, capped a four-run frame which tied the game for Tech at 10-10.
MU regained a 13-10 lead in the bottom of the fourth, but the relentless Tech offense surged back in front with an eight-run fifth.
It appeared the Midland bats had finally run out of steam after plating just one run in the fifth and sixth frames as Tech extended its lead to 25-15 at the seventh inning stretch.
Pinch-hitter Nate Calles served as the unlikely catalyst to Midland’s final stand. Calles sparked an eight-run rally with a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the game. MU scattered seven hits in the bottom of the seventh and cut its deficit to two runs at 25-23.
Alex Bee held Tech scoreless over the eighth and ninth innings on the mound, and a run in the eighth for MU made in a one-run game entering the bottom of the ninth inning.
“Alex did a fantastic job late in the game and gave us a chance to win. After the hole we dug ourselves out of, when we got back to within a run we all believed we were going to win,” Miller said.
Midland entered the final frame having scored at least one run in each of the eight previous innings of the ballgame and had three hitters due up who had already homered on the day.
MU’s epic comeback bid was denied by Tech’s Josh Wiesman who held the Warriors hitless and scoreless over the final frame.
“It would have been easy for our guys to give up when we fell behind by 10, but I can’t say enough about how well they competed. We were right there and believed we could beat any team in our bracket,” Miller added.
Cummins, a senior, went 6-for-6 on the day with three RBI for Midland. He was matched by Tech’s Glen McClain who was also perfect in six trips to the plate while adding five runs and five RBI.
Gray chipped in three hits and concluded his Midland career setting a single-season record with 88 hits.
Foster, also playing in his final game, recorded a career-best six hits for MU. Bos had his second straight four-hit, two-homer night to go along with a team-best five RBI. The junior went 10-for-19 with five homers and 11 RBI in the tournament.
Midland total 59 runs on 76 hits, including 19 home runs, over its four-game stint in Bartlesville.
Even more remarkable than the football-like final score posted by the two offensive juggernauts on Wednesday was the fact it mirrored a 23-22 MLB game played on this exact date in baseball history between the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs 38 years ago on May 17, 1979.
Midland’s season comes to an end with a record of 42-20 after picking up two wins at nationals for the first time in program history.
“It’s not easy to make the national tournament and it’s even more difficult to win. I’m certain though that we have taken another step forward as a program this season at the national level and I’m proud of how we represented Midland University this week.”