Great Bend, KAN. – After losing in the winner’s bracket against top seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan, the Panthers knew they were one game away from earning an automatic berth to the NAIA Opening Round. The Eagles from Oklahoma Wesleyan earned the first automatic berth out of the KCAC by winning the regular season title. With them making it into the tournament championship game, the second automatic berth would go to the runner-up of the tournament. York knew that had to play their best in the fifth meeting of the year with Tabor.
Corey Mixon (SR/Lake Isabella, Calif) was a dominant force on the mound for the Panthers and his teammates helped him out as they scored two runs early and then Connor Towle (JR/Keller, Texas) finished with a three-run homer for the 6-3 win.
Mixon allowed a hit in the first inning before throwing five innings without allowing another hit. In the seventh inning he allowed three runs on three hits to complete his outing. Spencer Jones (JR/Three Rivers, Calif) came in to pitch the final two innings. He struck out four of the six batters he faced, and didn’t allow a baserunner as he picked up the save.
Offensively, the Panthers got things started right away as DB Vidal reached on a leadoff walk. After a sacrifice bunt Isaiah Bond (SR/Union City, Calif) doubled to deep right-center field to score Vidal. Back-to-back singles by Jake Sola (SO/Lincoln, Calif) and Billy Damon (SR/Reno, Nev) moved Bond around to score.
York scored again in the fourth inning when Kevin Olmstead (SR/Grants Pass, Ore) doubled in Damon, who reached on an error. In the fifth inning the Panthers doubled their lead when Connor Towle hit a three-run home run over the left field fence. The six run lead was all the pitching staff would need to close out the Bluejays.
With the win York advanced into the championship game knowing they had secured the second automatic bid from the conference. Head Coach Brian Walth and his team were ecstatic after struggling through a rough early part of the season. “Being able to show people that we are a better team than what our record shows is really nice. These guys turned things around and proved they are a solid team,” said Walth.
York played Oklahoma Wesleyan in the championship on Sunday afternoon, but lost 14-3. The Panthers will wait until Thursday afternoon to find out where they will go when the NAIA announces the Opening Round pairings for the nine different sites.