Diamond Cats Headed Back to World Series
CLAREMORE, Okla. - In front of a hometown crowd of over 500, the Rogers State baseball team clinched a berth to the NAIA World Series on Saturday evening with an 8-4 victory over top-seeded Lubbock Christian in the NAIA Opening Round-Claremore Bracket at the Diamond Sports Complex.
For the second consecutive season the Hillcats won the Opening Round with right-handed hurler Kyle Duncan on the mound. The Bedford, Texas native went the distance in the championship game in back-to-back seasons spurring the Diamond Cats to victory.
Fourth seeded RSU tallied three consecutive wins to reach the title game in the winner’s bracket. The Hillcats were forced to beat the top-seeded Chaps for a second time in the tournament but registered a good start with a two-out solo home run by Jose Olazagasti to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
The Chaps, a member of the Sooner Athletic Conference, battled back in the bottom of the inning as they tied the game 1-1 with a single by Brandon Wilson that drove Christian Vazquez home after leading off the inning with a double.
After a scoreless second frame, the Hillcats regained the lead in the third. Keith Poverud led off the inning with a double down the left field line and scored on a single by Eric Baker. LCU pitcher Kyle Forsyth tried to pickoff Baker at first and threw the ball away, allowing Baker to move to third base. Hector Rivera followed with a squeeze bunt for a base hit that scored Baker, making it a 3-1 game.
Duncan shut down the Chaps for five-straight innings and the Hillcat tacked on one run in both the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Olazagasti and Colton Campbell hit consecutive singles. Tyler Wheeler sent Olazagasti home with a sacrifice fly to center. Baker hit a two-out single in the sixth and scored on a single up the middle by Rivera to make it a 4-1 contest.
Brett Kauten chipped away at the deficit in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out solo home run. However, the Hillcats answered in the top of the eight with a trio of runs on a two RBI single by Olazagasti and a RBI single by Wheeler.
In the bottom of the eighth the Chaps continued to battle, tallying two runs on three hits and retired the Hillcats in order in the top of the ninth.
Duncan (7-3) was calm, cool and collected in the bottom of the ninth as he faced the minimum to seal the Hillcat win. In nine innings of work he allowed four runs on nine hits with four strikeouts.
Forsyth (8-2) was tagged with the loss for LCU. The right-handed pitcher tossed 7.1 innings, allowing seven runs with six earned on 13 hits with four strikeouts.
LCU ended the season with a 44-17 record and the No. 4 ranking in the final regular season NAIA Top 25 Poll. The Chaps tallied a second place finish in the conference regular season standing and registered the SAC Tournament Championship.
Rogers State (35-22) will make their second trip to the Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho on May 24-31. All RSU games at the World Series will be streamed with live audio on the Hillcat Network at www.rsuhillcats.com/live.