KWU Baseball Claims 2023 KCAC Championship Topping Spires 9-4

KWU Baseball Claims 2023 KCAC Championship Topping Spires 9-4
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All the Kansas Wesleyan Baseball team had to do in Sunday's regular season final was take care of business and the KCAC Regular Season championship would be theirs.

Mission accomplished.

The Coyotes broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the seventh on Haydn Brown (SR/Gardnerville, Nev.)'s 2-run homer and added three more runs over the next two innings as Wesleyan completed the series sweep of the Saint Mary Spires with a 9-4 win at the Saint Mary baseball field.

The regular season title is the first for the Coyotes since 2011 when KWU won the regular season exactly 12 years ago, on this day, April 30, 2011, completing a series sweep over Ottawa to claim the title.

Wesleyan will be the No. 1 seed in the KCAC tournament that starts Wednesday in Great Bend at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The Coyotes will face the winner of the game between No. 4 Ottawa and No. 5 Oklahoma Wesleyan at 7 p.m.

It took a couple innings for the Coyote offense to get going. Wesleyan got its first hit in the second inning, a single by Zack Beatty (JR/Maple Park, Ill.), and another hit by Kevin Esquilin-Cruz (SR/Trujilo Alto, Puerto Rico) later in the frame, but the Coyotes couldn't get on the board.

Wesleyan got on the board in the top of the fourth inning when Dustin Sipe (SR/Aztec, N.M.) walked, then advanced on a stolen base before Brown's first 2-run homer of the game putting Wesleyan up 2-1.

Meanwhile defensively, the Coyotes were rolling behind starter Nathan Righi (JR/Pekin, Ill.). Righi was perfect through three innings, and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning when Saint Mary got its first hits of the game, despite scoring a run back in the fourth thanks to a couple walks and an error, the run was unearned.

The Coyotes added two more in the sixth. Brown led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then scored on Jarrett Gable (SR/Colleyville, Texas)'s double. Zach Olson (JR/Red Deer, Alberta) drove in the second run of the frame with a sacrifice fly later in the inning.

Saint Mary drew even with the Coyotes in the sixth, scoring three unearned runs, thanks to a pair of KWU errors in the inning. It was 4-4 after six innings.

In the seventh, Sipe drew a 1-out walk and Brown followed with a no-doubt shot to right to give the Coyotes the lead. Wesleyan threatened to add more as Beatty walked and moved to third on back-to-back wild pitches, but the Coyotes could not push another run across in the frame.

Saint Mary put a pair on in the seventh, but a fielder's choice erased the lead runner, and a fly out and ground out to first base unassisted ended the inning.

Wesleyan got a big run of insurance in the eighth as the Coyotes got a pinch-hit single by Jackson Newman (JR/Bixby, Okla.) and later in the inning, Sipe drove in the run with a single scoring courtesy runner Coulson Riggs (FR/Piedmont, Okla.).

The Coyotes got out of danger again in the eighth, invoking a 6-3 double play to end the frame.

Esquilin-Cruz led off the Coyote ninth with a walk, then stole second, then scored on Olson's ground-rule double. Sipe drove in another run in the inning with a single, but was thrown out trying to advance on the play.

Ryan Sandoval (SR/El Paso, Texas) came in for the ninth, getting two quick outs before a Spire single, but a grounder to third, and throw across ended it and the Coyotes would celebrate the conference title.

Wesleyan's offense was a balanced attack of 11 hits, as Sipe, Brown and Beatty had two each and five others had one each. Brown drove in four runs.

Ritter Steinmann (SO/Oroville, Calif.) got the win in relief, going two and two-thirds innings allowing two hits. Righi went five and a third, allowing four unearned runs on only two hits, before exiting. Sandoval closed it allowing one hit in the ninth.

Saint Mary's five hits came from five separate players. Cale Fields took the loss in relief, giving up the go-ahead runs in the seventh inning after the Spires had tied it in the bottom of the sixth, making him the pitcher of record. Starter Andrew Richardson took the no-decision, going five innings, allowing four runs, all earned, on six hits.

The Coyotes have received an automatic berth to the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round by virtue of winning the regular season. The NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round is May 15-18 at campus sites around the country. The Opening Round winners will meet for the 66th Annual AVISTA NAIA Baseball World Series May 26 through June 2 at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

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