For the second year in a row, the Bluefield College men’s baseball team advanced to the championship round of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division I World Series with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Olivet Nazarene Univeristy of Illinois, Saturday, May 22.
The number one seed Rams, the defending national champions of the NCCAA, will play the championship round against two-seed North Greenville University of South Carolina, a team that defeated BC, 4-2, earlier in the double-elimination tournament. The Crusaders are the lone undefeated squad in the playoff, which means the Rams will have to beat North Greenville twice to claim their second straight national title.
In the semi-final win over six-seed Olivet Nazarene, the Tigers struck first, getting three singles in the bottom of the second inning off Bluefield starting pitcher Daivd Gibson to stake an early 1-0 lead.
BC’s Travis Weaver evened the score in the top of the third with a two-out, two-strike home run that knotted the game at one apiece.
Gibson and Olivet starting pitcher Tyler Shore took control of the game from that point, limiting hits and allowing no more scoring threats until the seventh and final inning. In fact, BC managed just four hits through six innings, while Olivet tallied just three hits through six.
But, in the top of the seventh the Rams mustered what turned out to be the winning score. With one out, Zac Goodyear got on base with a single, Tony Singleton reached first after being hit by a pitch, and then Billy Funk loaded the bases with a base on balls. The Tigers quickly made a pitching change, calling on Chad Steinborn to save the day, but it was not meant to be as BC’s Devin Good made it to first and a run scored for the Rams off a fielding error on the next play.
Steinborn did shut down the Rams from that point, getting Weaver to ground out and Ryan Lambert to strike out to keep the Tigers just one run down, 2-1, heading to their last at bat.
Gibson nearly went the distance in the final frame, getting a strikeout and a fly out before giving up a single. BC Coach Mike White played it safe after that by bringing in NCCAA All-American Donald Howell to seal the deal. Howell got a strikeout to secure the save and the slim 2-1 win.
The Rams, now 41-15 overall and 3-1 in the NCCAA World Series, advanced to the championship round with wins over Indiana Wesleyan University, Spring Arbor College of Michigan, and Olivet. Their lone loss in the double-elimination tournament came in the third round at the hands of North Greenville University, who is 45-14 overall and 4-0 in the World Series with wins over Colorado Christian Univeristy, Olivet Nazarene, BC, and Southeastern University of Florida.
The championship round will begin at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.