Eastern wins NJCAA Region II Baseball Tournament; headed to New Orleans for South Central District Tournament May 20-22
After going through the consolation bracket to reach the NJCAA Region tournament championship, the Mountaineers took a 7-6 win against Connors State — ranked No. 7 nationally — on Sunday at Woodward to force a decisive second game, where they ran away with a 20-6 win to clinch the region title.
“Our guys played well and were able to slow the game down,” Eastern head coach Craig Price said. “We knew going in we would need to catch a few breaks and have some things go our way, but our guys did a great job.”
The Mountaineers (28-28) won their first region title since 2012 — and fourth in the past seven years — to advance to the NJCAA South Central District tournament, set for May 20-22 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in New Orleans.
They will open the tournament at noon Friday against Maple Woods Community College and will play at 3:20 p.m. against Delgado.
Despite dropping the opener to Connors State, Eastern took a 5-3 win against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and edged sixth-ranked Seminole State in a heated contest for a 3-2 win.
Price said the Mountaineers’ win over heated rival Seminole State catapulted them to the region title.
“Yes, 100 percent,” Price said. “We beat those guys in a close game and I think that game actually won us the tournament.”
Eastern pitcher Zach Fowler threw 12 innings on Saturday — three closing innings against NEO and all nine against Seminole State — on his way to being named the Region 2 tournament Most Valuable Player.
“(Fowler) threw 12 innings on Saturday in one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever seen,” Price said.
Tristan Clarke, Hunter Wilson, Brett Akins, and Easton Elliot were also named to the all-tournament team.
In the final game against Connors State (48-10) on Sunday, Eastern started with back-to-back home runs — a two-run dinger by Tristan Clarke and a solo shot by Jace Pitchford — but 11 runs in the top of the sixth put the game away.
With a 7-4 lead through five, Eastern got a leadoff home run form Hunter Wilson in the top of the sixth.
Hunter Uzzle then hit an RBI double, Tanner Wiley singled in a run, Brock Carter doubled in Uzzle and Chase Dubler, and Wiley scored for nine-run advantage.
Wilson continued the big inning with an RBI single and Brennan Dooly scored on a fielder’s choice.
Clarke and Pitchford then scored on back-to-back hit-by-pitches and Brett Akins scored on a wild pitch for an 18-4 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Connors scored one in the bottom half of the inning, Eastern added two in the seventh and held the Cowboys to just one in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win.
Carter went 2-for-3 with three runs and four RBIs, Wilson finished 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs, and both Dooly and Clarke went 2-for-4 — Dooly scored twice and drove in a run, while Clarke added three runs and four RBIs.
Eastern got off to a hot start in the first game with five runs in the top of the third.
Wilson doubled in Brock Carter before scoring later on a Pitchford single.
Brett Akins doubled in Pitchford before scoring on a bases-loaded walk, and Carter singled in Hunter Uzzle for the five-run advantage.
Connors answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning and one apiece in the fourth and fifth.
The Cowboys then got a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game at 5-5.
Eastern got two run in the top of the seventh with Chase Dubler doubling in Clarke and Uzzle before getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half of the inning and giving up just one run in the bottom of the ninth.
Uzzle finished 2-for-3 with two runs, Wilson went 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI, Brennan Dooly was 2-for-3 and Carter was 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI.