BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Midland University went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country on Monday night in the Bartlesville Bracket of the 2017 NAIA National Championship Opening Round, but the upset bid fell short as No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan University prevailed in the late innings with a 10-5 triumph.
The teams entered the seventh frame locked in a 5-5 tie after Alex Bee‘s two-run homer for fourth-seeded Midland tied the game in the sixth. The top-seeded and host Eagles promptly answered with a four-run seventh to put the game away.
Winners of a 10-4 affair earlier in the day, the Warriors entered the nightcap with a tall task against the NAIA’s top scoring team. Conversely, a pitcher’s duel broke out in the opening innings between Midland and OKWU.
After three shutout innings on both sides, the Eagles broke through with a four-spot in the top of the fourth inning against MU starter Daylon Owens. OKWU starter Zach Johnson, who is undefeated on the season, continued to blank the Warriors through four frames.
The Warriors continued to battle against Johnson, despite coming up empty on a number of hard hit balls early in the game, and finally scratched the plate with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Anthony Virgen drove in Midland’s first run on a fielder’s choice and Bee scored on a wild pitch to cut the Warrior deficit in half. Cole Gray followed with an RBI-single to make it a 4-3 game before the inning came to an end.
OKWU padded its lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth ahead of Bee’s game-tying two-run homer which finally chased Johnson from the game.
The Eagle bullpen limited the Warriors to just two hits over the final 3.1 innings while the host team pulled away late offensively.
Will Price was 2-for-4 with a pair of homers, four RBI and three runs scored for OKWU.
Bee, Gray and Colby Taylor had two hits apiece for the Warriors.
Owens allowed four runs on four hits over 3.2 IP in the start for MU. Shea Bennett (6-6) was charged with the loss after allowing three runs on four hits over 2.1 IP.
The Midland pitching staff issued five walks and hit three batters which allowed the dangerous Eagle offense to extend innings.
Midland (41-19) will turn to senior Kiefer Musiel on the mound Tuesday night in an elimination game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. with the opponent TBD.