From Wayland Baptist University
SHAWNEE, Okla. – The Wayland Baptist baseball team rode a masterful pitching performance from Tyler Doolittle all the way to the bottom of the ninth on the first day of the Sooner Athletic Tournament, but the Pioneers never could pull ahead of No. 15 Oklahoma Baptist, falling at Bison Field, 6-5.
Doolittle, who pitched seven scoreless innings after taking the mound in the middle of the second, continued to hold the Bison at bay in the top of the ninth. The junior from Glendale, Ariz,. got two quick outs, spaced by a walk, before a hard grounder that went off the pitching mound put runners at first and third. Doolittle, however, stranded OBU's insurance run at third by enticing a fly ball to right, giving the Pioneers a chance, down 6-5, in the bottom of the ninth.
Doolittle then came to the plate and led off the inning with a walk. Pinch runner Michael Cowan moved to second on a wild pitch before Colton Palmer put Cowan at third with one out by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line.
Mark Davis, who was a late scratch because of a nagging knee injury, came in to pinch hit in the big situation. The first pitch went to the backstop, but Cowan was held at third after the ball ricocheted directly back to the catcher off the brick wall. Davis smoked the next pitch up the middle, but the OBU pitcher got just enough on it, holding the runner at third before getting the out at first.
The Bison pitcher then ended Wayland's final threat by getting Johnny Hendrixson to strike out on a dirty change-up, giving Oklahoma Baptist the one-run win.
With Wayland (19-34) acting as the home team, host Oklahoma Baptist (39-16) struck first in its first at bat. Starting Pioneer pitcher Ryan Downs gave up a leadoff double on the first pitch of the game before walking the next batter on a 3-2 count. Downs then gave up an RBI-single through the left side of the infield, giving OBU a 1-0 lead.
A deep fly ball to center moved a runner to third with one out, allowing him to score on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of the next hitter. Downs got the next batter to go down on strikes, but OBU went to the field for the first time holding a 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers, however, answered right back in the home half of the first. Hendrixson got the offense started with a two-out single, then Josh Chinni hit a long fly ball to left that ended up in the Bison's bullpen, knotting the game up at two runs apiece.
Oklahoma Baptist came out firing in the top of the second, getting its first two runners on with no outs. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. It appeared that Downs might work his way out of a big inning, getting a key strikeout to get the second out of the inning, but the next hitter lofted a ball into right centerfield that was just out of reach of a sliding Chinni, scoring two runs. The next batter was hit by a pitch, and that would be Downs' day as the Pioneers moved Doolittle from behind the plate to the mound.
A wild pitch put runners at second and third before Doolittle gave up a two-out, two-run single that gave the Bison a 6-4 lead. A routine grounder ended the big inning.
Doolittle got things started again for Wayland with a leadoff single in the third, but that was erased when Palmer grounded into a double play. WBU didn't give in as Rosario and Hendrixson got back-to-back singles through the right side before Chinni drew a walk to load the bases. Gregg Veneklasen came up and quickly went down 0-2, but bore down and got a single up the middle, scoring Rosario and Hendrixson. After Gabby De La Cruz went down on strikes, Wayland hit the field down trailing 6-4.
After a scoreless fourth, OBU threatened again in the fifth. Back-to-back singles put runners at first and second with no outs. The Bison elected to bunt the runners over, but De La Cruz made a good play, wheeling around and firing to third to get the lead runner. Doolittle then induced a beautiful 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Wayland inched closer to the Bison's lead when Chinni hit a solo homer over the batter's eye in center field to take the score to 6-5 after six.
The Pioneers return to Bison Field to take on No. 5 Lubbock Christian, a 3-1 winner over St. Gregory's, at 2 p.m. Thursday. Wayland then takes on St. Greg's at 2 p.m. Friday. The winner of the Shawnee pool bracket will play the winner of the pool at Oklahoma City University in the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday at OCU.
In other games Wednesday, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma edged Rogers State, 6-5, while OCU knocked off Mid-America Christian, 4-2.