Orioles capture I-70 Conference championship
Facing one of the best pitchers in the I-70 Confer-ence, the second-seeded Concordia Orioles found a way to manufacture a run in the bottom of the eighth inning and slip past No. 5-seeded Wellington 5-4 Thursday at the Concordia Sports Complex, winning the conference baseball tournament.
"Our guys never gave up and came through with two big two-out hits," CHS head coach Nate Beissenherz said.
It is the fourth time the Orioles have won the conference tournament crown since the event's inception in 1999. But it's the first time the Orioles have reigned over the league since 2003.
The Orioles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but Wellington came back with three third-inning tallies. The Orioles tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fourth.
Wellington grabbed the lead again on a two-out RBI single by Caleb Kropp, driving in Dylon Register in the top of the sixth.
Down to their final two outs, the Orioles rallied for the game-tying run again in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Carter Brown reached base on an error and advanced to second on a passed ball. With two outs, Alic Frerking drilled an RBI single to center field.
The Orioles suffered two straight errors in the top of the eighth, but Carter Brown came back to fan Blake Seitz, Kropp and Brett Schaberg, keeping the game knotted.
Nine innings looked imminent when Christian Nixdorf got out the first two Orioles in the bottom of the eighth. But Collin Werths kept the inning going by drawing a four-pitch walk.
"He (Werths) is basically another leadoff hitter in the nine spot. He is a smart contact hitter who doesn't swing t a lot of non-strikes," Beissenherz said. "He had struggled a little bit, but really came through when it mattered most with his patience at the plate.
He proceeded to steal second.
"I told Collin, if there's a hit, I was going to send him home," Beissenherz said.
Drew Smith obliged, lacing a hard shot between shortstop and third base into left field. There wasn't even a play at the plate.
"It couldn't have been a better situation--your fastest runner on second base and your two-time all-conference hitter at the plate with two outs."
Concordia, which won the title in 1999, 2000 and 2003, had six hits, including two singles by Smith, a two-run first-inning home run by Carter Brown and base hits by Dustin Heineken, Frerking and J. R. Langkrahr. Carter Brown scored twice and Tyler Tolias, Langkrahr and Werths once apiece. Carter Brown and Smith each had two RBIs and Langkrahr one.
The Orioles' defense wasn't stellar, committing five errors, but Beissenherz pointed to a key play that was important.
*Niendick laced a shot in the gap in the first inning. Having two bags in his hip pocket, Niendick decided to test the Orioles, Cale Brunk-horst throwing a strike to Tolias as a cut-off man. Tolias' throw was on the money to Langkrahr, who tagged out Niendick to end the frame.
The Tigers, who were playing in the championship game for the first time, had three hits, including a single and a double by Kropp and a base hit by Nixdorf. Nixdorf, Register, Kropp and Blaine Beissenherz each scored a run. Niendick and Kropp each was credited with an RBI.
Frerking hurled the first five frames, allowing three runs on two hits, striking out five. In the final three frames, Carter Brown gave up a run on one hit and fanned five to earn the victory.
Seitz threw the first five frames for the Tigers. He gave up three runs, striking out six. Nixdorf struck out five and suffered the loss.
"We played like champions," Beissenherz said. "This win is huge for our confidence the rest of the season and really sets a tone for us.
"These juniors were here two years ago and really wanted this one."
The Orioles, 10-2, were playing without catcher and clean-up hitter Hayden Brown all tournament, Dustin Hei-neken filling in admirably.
"It's nice having depth," Beissenherz said. "Once we get everybody healthy and back in the line up, I think we are really going to explode offensively."