Provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics
The Wayland Baptist baseball team scored 20 runs less than 24 hours before its final home game of the season, but the Pioneers failed to outscore Oklahoma Panhandle State at Wilder Field on Wednesday afternoon, falling to the Aggies, 7-6.
Wayland (31-18) entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-4, when the Pioneers mounted a comeback. Oklahoma Panhandle State (12-31) sent B.J. Henry to the mound, the Aggies' sixth pitcher of the day, to try and finish off the red-hot Pioneers.
Josh Alexander led off the inning with a pop-up to shallow right, but the right fielder misplayed the ball and Alexander scooted to second. Damion Lovato drew a walk, and both Lovato and Alexander moved to second on a pass ball.
Gaby De La Cruz, who hit the game-winning home run in Friday's dramatic, 5-4, win over No. 10 Oklahoma City, approached the plate, representing the tying run. De La Cruz failed to homer this time, but to his credit, the big first baseman didn't try and do too much, hitting a ground ball to second, to score Alexander and move up Lovato in the process.
Pitcher Jovany Padilla (more on that later) poked a single in front of the right fielder for an RBI, bringing the winning run to the plate with one out. Unfortunately, the Pioneers' comeback hopes were cut short on the next batter.
On an apparent hit-and-run, Tyler Doolittle hit a fly ball to right with courtesy runner Chance Rollins gunning for second. Trey Wooton came under the ball in shallow right field, and Rollins was unable to return to first in time and was doubled off. The unusual 9-to-3 putout allowed the Aggies to escape with the 7-6 win.
Wayland did lead for a brief time during Wednesday's game, tying OPSU, 1-1, in the first with a sacrifice fly from Lovato before taking the lead in the third.
Aaron Vallance led off the third inning with a single to right, then moved to third on a one-out single from Alexander. Lovato walked to load the bases, bring De La Cruz to the plate.
In the Pioneers' last two games, De La Cruz has hit .556 with three runs, three RBIs, a double and a home run. The sophomore from Carolina, Puerto Rico, stayed on fire, clearing the bases in his second at-bat with a three-run double to give Wayland a 4-1 lead.
Desperate for a win, OPSU started clawing back to avoid its 10th-straight loss.
The Aggies scored two runs in the fourth to pull within a run of the Pioneers before taking the lead for good in the fifth.
With two on and two out, second baseman Lucas Ogaz tripled to left centerfield, easily scoring both runners and giving OPSU a one-run lead.
Robert Montoya singled deep in the hole at short to give the Aggies a 6-4 lead before Paxton Bartley (2-2) got a fly ball to center for the final out of the inning.
Corey Weldon and Joey DiCarlo combined to shut out the Aggies in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but OPSU got what proved to be a much-needed insurance run in the top of the ninth.
Padilla, having worked his way around the infield and outfield throughout the game, found himself pitching for the first time in his collegiate career. The senior from Caguas, Puerto Rico, started at catcher before moving to a different position each inning, finally landing on the mound in the ninth.
Padilla walked the first batter he faced, but made a nice play on a sacrifice bunt attempt to get the lead runner at second on the next batter. With one out, Padilla got pinch hitter Evan Offutt to strike out for the second out.
However, Padilla's only mistake on the mound cost him as Ogaz took advantage of a ball up in the zone, tripling to score Chris McClendon from first.
The run cost Wayland as the Pioneers could only score two in the bottom of the ninth, falling to the Aggies, 7-6.
Vallance, Brayden Blackwell and De La Cruz all had two hits on the day, with Vallance scoring twice and De La Cruz driving in four. Lovato was 0-for-2 at the plate, but still was productive, scoring twice and driving in a run, while Padilla drove in the final run.
Wayland travels to Fort Worth this weekend for its final regular season series, taking on Texas Wesleyan University (24-23, 13-11) at historic LaGrave Field. The Pioneers, 17-7 in the SAC and tied with OCU, and Rams will play a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. Friday before finishing the series at noon Saturday.