Midway University
News Photo
Baseball - Tue, May 9, 2017

Chillicothe, Ohio – In just their first year as a program, the Midway University baseball team accomplished a feat on Tuesday afternoon that sometimes takes teams years to complete, winning their respective conference championship.

The Eagles did just that as they won the second championship game, 9-7, over West Virginia Tech to claim the 2017 River States Conference Baseball Tournament Championship in their first year as a program.

"I am so proud of all of these guys," noted head coach, Luther Bramblett. "We were fortunate enough to get hot at the right time as we played some of our best baseball of the season in the tournament."

Midway found themselves having to win a second championship game after the Golden Bears (31-28) won the first championship game 4-1 to force a decisive winner-take-all game.

During the regular season, Midway averaged 4.13 runs per game and batted .254, while slugging .350. But things changed for the Eagles in the postseason where they averaged 8.6 runs per game hitting .320, while slugging .440.

The game started off as a back-and-forth affair as both teams traded blows in the early going. After WVU Tech took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, Midway answered with a run of their own in the top of the second.

Danny Maguire (Dana Point, Calif.) walked, Tyler Jones (Huntington Beach, Calif.) legged out an infield single and Reid Battles (Denton, Texas) was hit by the pitch to load the bases with two outs as Josh Wenning (Palmyra, Ind.) stepped to the plate.

Wenning was hit by a pitch to force home Maguire from third and tie the game at 1-1. The Golden Bears regained a 4-1 edge after scoring three runs in the bottom of the third.

During the early innings, Midway was in search of the key hit that would spark their offense and in the fourth inning, that spark came. DJ Lewis (San Diego, Calif.) reached on a walk and later scored on a base hit by Wenning. Jones followed Lewis's walk with a single as his pinch runner – Noah Marion (Louisville, Ky.) – scored on a sac fly by Matthew Olson (Louisville, Ky.).

After scoring two in the top of the fourth, Midway cut the WVU Tech lead to 4-3, but the Golden Bears answered the call once more scoring two in the fifth to push their lead back out to three, 6-3, after five innings complete.

Midway once again came battling back with two in the sixth cutting the lead to 6-5. Maguire reached on a leadoff walk and two batters later Tyler Jones played long ball and picked a perfect time for his first collegiate home run. Jones ripped a 1-0 fastball and sent it over the left field fence for a two-run home run.

Pitching on two days rest for Midway and giving his team five solid innings was James Davenport (Louisville, Ky.). Davenport allowed six runs – four earned – on nine hits while fanning five batters in five frames. Replacing Davenport to begin the sixth was senior, Derek Jones (Mt. Washington, Ky.).

Jones allowed a two-out double in the sixth, but got a big time strikeout to finish off three K's in his first inning of work. Jones got some help from his offense in the next half inning as the tables turned and Midway led for the first time on the day after scoring three runs on two hits.

Olson reached on a leadoff walk and Barrett Croslin (Russellville, Ky.) reached on an error to put runners on the corners with one out. An RBI single from Carlos Cespedes (Santo Domingo, D.R.) scored Olson and sent Croslin to third.

With runners on the corners once more, one of the hottest hitters in the tournament for Midway, Danny Maguire came through once again. The junior ripped a double to deep left-center to score both Croslin from third and the speedy Cespedes from first as Midway took an 8-6 advantage.

Now with an 8-6 lead, Derek Jones, went right back to work on the mound. He allowed base runners in both the seventh and eighth innings, but each time stranded the runners where they stood to preserve the 8-6 lead as the game moved to the ninth.

In the ninth, the Eagles added an important insurance run in top half. DJ Lewis worked a leadoff walk and after he stole second, with two outs Wenning was intentionally walked to set up a force at any base. Matthew Olson delivered in the clutch and made the Golden Bears pay with an RBI single that scored Lewis to extend Midway's lead to 9-6 heading to the bottom half.

In the ninth, Jones allowed a two-out run scoring single that cut the lead to 9-7 as the tying run in Wyatt Belinda stepped to the plate.

Jones went right at Belinda – who was 1-for-4 for the game – and got him to lift a lazy pop up to the infield as Barrett Croslin called off his teammates and camped underneath of it and held on for the final out of the game to seal the 9-7 victory to bring home the first-ever RSC Baseball Championship to Midway.

Shortly after making the catch, Croslin was mobbed by his teammates from the dugout as well as on the field as a dogpile ensued in front of the mound to celebrate the championship.

Taking home the victory in a masterful relief appearance was Derek Jones. The senior tied his longest outing of the season with four innings out of the bullpen. Jones (3-3) fanned five Golden Bears by the strikeout variety allowing a run on three hits.

Offensively, the quartet of T. Jones, Wenning, Olson and Maguire led the way. Each had two RBI's, while Cespedes tallied the other for Midway. Maguire and Lewis each scored twice as five different Eagles tallied one run scored.

The win for Midway earns them an automatic berth in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round. The 45-team event is scheduled for May 15-18 and features nine, five-team double-elimination tournament. The Opening Round qualifiers and brackets will be announced on Thursday, May 11. 

Follow Midway Eagles Athletics