SHAWNEE – Knowing they needed three wins to make a return trip to the NAIA Baseball National Championship tournament, the Drover baseball team started off its postseason play with a 5-0 shutout against fourth-seeded Wayland Baptist.
In the regular season, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma(26-21) and the Pioneers (32-21) battled to one-run games in all three contests of the series, but that wasn’t the case in post-season, as the Drovers crossed the plate five times and a solid performance on the mound kept the Pioneers at bay.
Jose Flores (5-1) pitched a complete game nine-inning shutout over the Pioneers, throwing a season-high 13 strikeouts and nearly 150 pitches without giving up a single run.
“The key was Jose Flores. He threw a great game and he kept the score down for a lot of innings,” Head Coach Mike Ross. “It was a team effort; everyone did well, but we couldn’t have done it without Jose’s performance.”
The Drovers struck first, scoring in the top of the fourth inning. A hit, a walk and an error loaded the bases before WBU’s Tom Bailey walked Eddie Malone to score Jaime Gurrola, who had hit a double to reach base. Bailey had eight strikeouts his 6.1 innings on the mound.
In the seventh inning, the Drovers scored an additional four runs. The first two Drover batters were hit by a pitch. Ryan Wescott then doubled to left center to score Blake Scannell, who was courtesy running for catcher Owen Adams.
The following batter, Chris Musick, tripled down the left line, which scored Joe Black and Wescott and forced a WBU pitching change.
Gurrola then hit the first pitch from WBU’s relief pitcher, Jose Urena, for an RBI-single. Musick scored on the play. Gurrola went 2-for-5 in the game with one run and an RBI.
Neither team scored in the final two innings as the Drovers went on to win the 5-0 shutout.
USAO will go on to play top-seeded Oklahoma Baptist, a team that also tops the NAIA polls, at 5 p.m. Saturday and eighth-seeded Mid-America Christian at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both games are set at OBU’s Baseball Complex.
“We are going to have to go out and beat the No. 1 team in the nation,” Ross said. “Like I told them earlier today, it’s not a different game. It’s going to come down to execution.”
The Pioneers will play MACU at 1 p.m. Saturday and OBU at 5 p.m. Sunday. The SAC Championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at Oklahoma City University.