Coyote baseball earns KCAC playoff berth, sweeps Tabor Series

HILLSBORO — What started on Friday had to be finished on Saturday due to Mother Nature’s diversions. Bad weather on Friday night forced the suspension of Game 1 of the series between Kansas Wesleyan and Tabor at Bluejay Baseball Field.

The suspension wouldn’t affect the team either, as the Coyotes ended Saturday’s replay with a 16-9 win.

The Coyotes would finish Saturday with two more wins over the No. 22-ranked Bluejays to sweep the season streak and give Wesleyan a spot in the KCAC post-season tournament at Great Bend next week.

Wesleyan was in a direct battle for the final playoff spot with Bethany, having to at least match what Bethany did against Southwestern last weekend, or get a sweep of the Bluejays to secure the final playoff spot.

The Coyotes would sweep Saturday’s originally scheduled doubleheader 15-3 and 13-11 to earn the No. 6 seed in the tournament.

The weekend series featured two of the top five home run teams in the NAIA, and the teams did not disappoint, combining for 16 home runs in the series.

In Game 1, Tabor took a 4-0 lead late in the first with a pair of 2-run homers, but the Coyotes fought back in the top of the second as Jarrett Gable (JR/Colleyville, TX) drove in a pair of runs with a single that scored Justin Lewis (JR/Redmond, Washington) and Dustin Sipe (JR/Aztec, NM).

The Bluejays added two more runs late in the inning on another home run before the Coyote offense was scouted. KWU scored at least one run in six innings, including seven in the fourth, to blow up the game en route to a 16-9 victory.

Sipe drove in a run in the third with a defensive pick, before the Coyotes scored seven in the fourth. Yealex Lopez-Torres (JR/Arecibo, Puerto Rico) hit a grand slam and Sipe hit a 3-run homer in the frame for the Coyotes.

Gable homered, Kevin Esquilin Cruz (JR/Trujilo Alto, Puerto Rico) doubled in a run, then scored on wild pitch to cap KWU’s fifth inning 3-run.

The Coyotes got single runs in the sixth (Lopez-Torres double play to score a run), seventh (Josh Sandoval (SR/Glendale, Ariz.) base-loaded walk), and eighth inning (Gable Homer).

The match was suspended at the start of the eighth due to weather and resumed on Saturday. Cesar Rodriguez (SO/Houston, TX) closed the game for the Coyotes, getting the final four outs, including knocking the team out in the ninth for the strike.

Gable was 4 for 5 in the game and led in four. Sipe and Lopez-Torres also contested four points. William Dryburgh (SR/St. Joseph, Mo.), Sipe and Sandoval each had two hits. Branden Voytko (JR/El Paso, TX) took the win on the hill.

The Coyotes took a 7-0 lead in game two on a 2-run homer from Josh Sandoval in second, a Sipe RBI single in third and four runs in fourth on a 2-run single from Esquilin Cruz and a brace of 2 points per Sipe.

Tabor got on the board late in the inning and added two more in the sixth.

The Coyotes blew up the game in the eighth with four runs, the first on a goal-laden breakout, followed by Haydn Brown (SR/Gardnerville, Nev.) on a well-hit 3-run homer to the right. The Coyotes added four more in the ninth on an RBI brace from Esquilin Cruz and a 3-run homer from Sipe.

Sipre used three hits to lead in six runs in the game. Dryburgh was 4 of 5. Esquilin Cruz and Brown each had three points. Sandoval added two hits. Trent Dewyer (JR/Albuquerque, NM) rode five races to take the win. Spencer Foley (JR/Lancaster, Calif.) pitched the final four innings for the ultra-rare four-inning stoppage allowing a hit.

The final was wild with a 13-11 victory for the Coyotes.

Sipe started the scoring with an RBI double in the first to see Tabor take the lead with a 2-run homer late in the inning. Gable homered in second and Esquilin Cruz homered an RBI double in second, restoring the lead to the Coyotes.

Tabor tied it late in the inning with another 2-run homer.

KWU retook the lead in the fifth with two runs a Sandoval brace and when Brandon Zwiener (JR/Norfolk, Neb.) hit a 2-out error, only to see Tabor resume right away with four runs down the round of bat.

The Coyotes had six on the board in the sixth inning. Brown reached for a fielder’s pick that gave up a run, Sandoval walked with the bases loaded, and Zwiener and Lopez-Torres had a pair of 2-run singles.

Tabor scored in the bottom of the inning, but the Coyotes got an insurance run on Brown’s single in the seventh. Tabor attempted the return but was just short after scoring twice late in the seventh.

KT Gearlds (JR/Ingram, Texas) secured the relief victory for the Coyotes in one and two-thirds innings, allowing two unearned runs. Dryburgh, Esquilin Cruz, Brown, Sipe, Zwiener, Gable and Lopez-Torres all had multiple hits for the Coyotes.

KWU will face a familiar face in the KCAC tournament on Wednesday. The Coyotes will face those same Tabor Bluejays at 3 p.m. at the Great Bend Sports Complex in Great Bend in the first round of the tournament.

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