The Baker Orange

Baseball clinches spot in conference tournament

Story by Chad

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The Baker University baseball team has clinched a spot in the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament after splitting a four-game series with Evangel University.

“It’s good to be back after missing out on conference last year,” senior Gabe Greenbaum said.

The Wildcats’ last tournament run in 2014 ended with a record of 1-2, with the Wildcats defeating Benedictine College. This season will mark Baker’s second tournament run since 2009 and the first in head coach Ryan Goodwin’s debut season.

“He’s a great leader, he’s really aggressive,” Greenbaum said of Goodwin. “The best thing about him is how much faith he puts into us as players. If we were as good as he thinks we could be, we would never lose.”

The Wildcats’ offense was on fire Friday, scoring 21 runs in a doubleheader sweep, but stagnated on Saturday, scoring just five runs in two losses to the Crusaders.

“We took greater advantage of our opportunities on Friday,” Greenbaum said. “We had a lot of timely hitting that led to runs, and on Saturday we were able to get runners on base, but not get them home.”

Baker fell behind in game one 5-2 but rallied in the final two innings, including a three-run seventh, to earn a walk-off win. Game two picked up where game one left off, as the Wildcats were able to put up 12 runs in the first three innings en route to a 15-2 victory. Five Wildcats had multiple RBIs, led by senior Cort Brennan’s four.

Before Saturday’s pair of losses, the Wildcats had won nine straight games in the Heart and now hold a 15-13 conference record after starting the season 6-12.

“We hit our stride … as far as playing loose and with confidence,” Greenbaum said. “Now we go into every game thinking that we should win.”

Game one on Saturday featured a complete game performance by junior Caleb Lee, who gave up only one earned run but two unearned runs in a 3-2 loss. Game two was an offensive exhibition early for the Crusaders, who scored seven runs before the end of the second inning in a 7-3 Wildcat loss.

With just four games left in the regular season and a place in the conference tournament at hand, the Wildcats have felt a sense of relief, but they are not taking their spot for granted.

“We don’t focus too much on our record or seeding, but we do want to head into the tournament with momentum, and it would be great to improve our seeding,” Greenbaum said.

The Wildcats’ final four games will be in a weekend series with Avila University. Friday’s doubleheader will take place at Sauder Field, while Saturday’s doubleheader starts at 1 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri.

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