HASTINGS, Neb. – (RV) Midland University rebounded from a 5-3 setback to claim the finale of Sunday’s doubleheader at Hastings College, 5-2. The Warriors and Broncos split the four-game weekend series.
Midland (34-15, 16-8 GPAC) went 3-3 on the week and holds onto its pole position in the conference race entering the final week of play.
“This was as competitive as a four-game series as you will see,” said head coach Chad Miller. “The conference race is really tight and we expected this level of play over the weekend. Hastings is a very good team that plays outstanding defense behind their quality arms. We battled a lot of adversity in our dugout with injuries over the weekend as well.”
Torrey Escamilla (10-0) kept his perfect record intact in Game 2 and is now tied for second in the NAIA in wins this season. The junior right-hander allowed two runs on eight hits over 8.0 IP. Escamilla struck out three batters and leads the GPAC with 66 punchouts on the year.
“Torrey had the flu this week and wasn’t with our team until yesterday, but he stepped up big to help salvage the split. He’s been great all year,” Miller added.
Conlon McKenzie went 3-for-3 in the finale and drove in the first run of the game to give Midland a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Chris Foster added a two-out RBI-single in the frame to give the Warriors a 2-0 edge.
Midland led by a count of 3-0 before the Broncos scored runs in both the fifth and seventh innings to make it a one-run game. Hastings threatened to knot the game in the seventh, but Colby Taylor threw out the tying runner at the plate from left field. Tanner Bos provided some insurance in the top of the eighth frame with a two-run single to pad the lead for Escamilla and the Warrior bullpen.
Alex Bee notched his fifth save of the season with a scoreless inning of work in the ninth. Hastings loaded the bases against Bee, but the hard throwing right-hander didn’t surrender a run as MU held on for the win.
The Warriors settled for the split after they couldn’t maintain an early lead in Game 1. McKenzie and Bos drove in first inning runs for MU in the opener, but Hastings quickly slashed its deficit to 2-1 in the bottom half of the frame.
The decisive inning for the Broncos came in the bottom of the third when three runs crossed the plate against Midland starter Shea Bennett (5-5).
Bennett was charged with the loss after allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits over 4.1 IP. Dillon Cotner allowed just one Bronco hit over 1.2 IP out of the bullpen to keep the Warriors in the game late.
Midland controls its own destiny heading into its final four GPAC games of the season. If the Warriors win out, the worst they could finish is in a first-place tie for the conference title. Midland won the 2016 GPAC regular season championship.
Concordia University (25-18, 14-8 GPAC) is tied with Midland in the loss column. Morningside College and Hastings each have nine conference losses.
“It’s always fun to play for a championship and be in the mix at this time of the season. This is what we prepare for and expect out of our program. Now we just need to finish strong at home.”
The Warriors play a non-conference game against No. 4 Bellevue University on Tuesday before ending the regular season with a four-game series at home against Doane University in Fremont on Friday and Saturday.