BETHANY – In a series that may define the season, the University of Science and Arts came up one run short in Thursday’s game one against No. 18th-ranked Southern Nazarene. USAO held a 2-0 lead for six innings, but a four-run seventh lifted SNU to the 6-5 home win.
Catcher Luke Krobath led the Drovers with a 3-for-4 day at the plate including a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to pull USAO to within a run. But SNU closer Josh Cephas was too much striking out three batters in the ninth to collect his fifth save of the season.
Entering Thursday’s game, the Drovers needed to gain some respect. After charging to the best start in school history and a No. 19 ranking, USAO dropped three games to No. 1 Lubbock Christian and fell 20 spots in the rankings. The Drovers fell from third in the conference rankings to fifth behind SNU and Wayland Baptist despite taking two of three from WBU earlier in the season.
The game couldn’t have started better for USAO with singles from Kevin Carby and Krobath. Andrew Reyes drove in both runs with a single to right field, and USAO had a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Celeb Martin threw six scoreless innings and pitched himself out of a big jam in the fourth inning. With runners at second and third with no outs, the Duncan sophomore got a ground out and two of his five strikeouts to end the threat and keep a 2-0 lead.
The seventh was a different story. SNU loaded the bases and scored runs on a ground out, an error and a sacrifice fly to take a 4-2 lead. USAO answered in the eighth. Krobath earned a leadoff walk, and pinch runner Brad Sylvester stole second and scored on a Greg Ylda single.
SNU scored two more in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead to 6-3. In the ninth, Carby drew a walk, and Krobath blasted his fourth home run of the season before a game-ending strikeout.
SNU’s Matt Morgal earned his 10th win of the season, which set a new school record for the Crimson Storm. SNU improved to 33-9 overall and 15-7 in the conference. They are two games ahead of the Drovers for third place after USAO fell to 31-11 overall and 13-9 in the league. The series wraps up with a doubleheader at Bill Smith Ballpark Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.