OKLAHOMA CITY – The Drovers delivered a solid performance – and one player broke a school record -- in their first national tournament appearance, but ultimately fell to (15) Sterling College.
The tournament is double-elimination. The Drovers move on to play Northwestern (Iowa) at 11 a.m. Friday at Jim Wade Stadium at OCU, while Sterling will play either (2) Oklahoma City or Jamestown (N.D.) at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
It took Drover pitcher Blake McMullen (9-4) just an inning to throw his first strikeout of the game – which was his 89th of the season, tying a school record. He broke the record two innings later and has 90 strikeouts on the season.
The Drovers got on the board first in just the second inning. USAO had loaded the bases with two outs on the board when Sterling pitcher Daniel Cloteaux walked Robert Summers to score Zach Gonzalez for the Drovers’ first run.
Then Jared Coon drove two more runs home with a hit that went right under the third baseman’s glove. Scoring on that play were Blake Pruett and Konrad Mueller.
Leading 3-0, the Drovers kept Sterling scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when two Warriors found their way home.
The Warriors had loaded the bases in the fifth with no outs when Joe Battiglia batted a run in, and designated hitter Andrew Clark hit a grand slam to put Sterling ahead 7-3.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Drovers loaded the bases and Heath Wilda singled to score Mueller to narrow the margin by one.
Sterling College scored one more in the bottom of the seventh off a wild pitch.
Needing to score in the eighth, USAO’s Brian Vigo doubled to right center to score Wilda, who had doubled the previous at bat. The Drovers couldn’t deliver any more runs and fell 8-5 in the end.
For the game, however, the Drovers had 17 hits to Sterling’s 10. Both teams struck out seven batters.
David Garcia threw two strikeouts in nearly three innings on the mound. Aaron Copfer struck out three of the four batters he faced.
It was the Drovers’ first national tournament game in program history.
The game started two hours late because the previous game, Jamestown versus Northwestern, went into the 14th inning and lasted more than four and a half hours.