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Taylor walks-off in national tournament opener

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TROJANS: Taylor second baseman Tanner Kolbe looks towards first base on a double play attempt in the Trojans’ 2-1 win over Northwestern (Iowa) in the opening game of the NAIA national tournament’s pool play in Upland Monday afternoon.
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WALK OFF: Taylor’s Sam Wiese is met by a joyous bunch ofteammates after his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth lifted Trojans’ to a 2-1 win over Northwestern (Iowa) in the opening game of pool play of the NAIA national tournament in Upland Monday afternoon.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Sam Wiese had a singular thought as he walked to home plate for an at-bat in the bottom of the ninth for Taylor University in its NAIA national tourney opener against Northwestern (Iowa) Monday afternoon on Winterholder Field.

The Trojans needed a little help from the Red Raiders for Wiese, a senior, to even get to the plate in the scenario every kid that grows up playing baseball dreams about.

Taylor trailed 1-0 entering the ninth and had its bats frustrated nearly all game by Northwestern starting pitcher Noah McBride, a soft-throwing lefty who struck out only two but induced the Trojans into 15 fly ball outs and limited them to just four hits.

With one out in the ninth, Nathan Targgart sent a hard grounder down the third-base line for an infield single, and pinch runner Jonathan Foster stole second to put the tying run in scoring position for the Trojans. Tanner Watson then sent a deep-drive into left that bounced out of Red Raider outfield Colton Harold’s glove allowing Foster to scored.  Watson made an all-out sprint around to third on the play with the winning run.  

Wiese went from not having a chance to bat in the ninth to suddenly getting the opportunity to win a national tournament game in just a couple of minutes.

Tanner Ortlund, another lefty, relieved McBride for Northeastern, but that didn’t alter Wiese’s mission. 

“I was thinking I was going to end the game. I didn’t really care how I was going to do it, but it was going to end right there,” said Wiese matter-of-factly. “I just ready to go at whatever (Taylor coach Kyle Gould) gave me.”

Ortlund stayed outside to the right-handed hitting Wiese for the first three pitches, foiling a suicide squeeze attempt with a one-and-one count. Wiese popped up the bunt attempt along the first baseline, but it fell harmlessly out of reach of Northeastern’s defenders.

With two strikes and two balls, Wiese did what he set out to do. 

“It was a good pitch, it was a fast ball hard down and in on me after going out three pitches in a row,” Wiese said. “It was a good pitch, I just had to drop my hands quick and get the barrel on it hard.”

Wiese sent a line drive into center for a base hit scoring Watson with the winning run and the rest of Trojans sprinting out of the dugout and into a celebration in short right field after the stunning, 2-1 win. 

“I just knew I wasn’t going to go down without Tanner scoring from third,” Wiese said.

The win moved Taylor (44-14), the fourth-seed in bracket, into a game with Oklahoma Welseyan Monday evening. 

“The best thing you can do in a tournament is win one late and we were so bad offensively we gave ourselves a chance to do that,” said Taylor coach Kyle Gould. I guess. Thats the good news.

Wiese and Targgart each had two hits for the Trojans, Brett Lawson and Josh Lane had one each. Wiese and Lawson also drew walks.

Targgart led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, but was still there after a pair of flyouts to right and ground out to third.

“(McBride) didn’t walk anyone, didn’t put anyone on base, and he stayed in the zone all day so he forced us to get out in front and give him bad at bats,” Wiese said. “We didn’t give him best at bats, then finally after being able to see him for nine innings we were finally able to piece a couple of things together.”

Taylor starter Matt Patton was equally if not more effective than McBride, allowing only an infield single and a pair of walks to Northeastern. But with two-outs in the top of the sixth Christian Stekl hit Patton’s first pitch curling inside of the foul pole and out of the park to left field to stake the Red Raiders to a 1-0 lead.

“I left a fastball up in the zone and I instantly knew what had happened,” Patton said. “I threw it, you wish you could have that pitch back, but you’ve got to let it go. 

 Patton walked then hit the next two batters and exited in favor of Rob Fox, who induced a softly hit bouncer back to the mound for the third out. Patton allowed just two hits and three walks and finished with three strikeouts. He admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled to keep the Trojans in the contest.

“I think just competed out there,” Patton said, when asked what he did well. “The guys had my back on every pitch and made a lot of plays behind me. I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff so I just competed and every body had my back behind me. 

“The guys have all kinds of fight in them. We’re not done yet,” he added.

Lane doubled with one out in sixth for the Trojans and stole third, but Taylor’s best scoring chance of the game ended when Northeastern right fielder AJ Nitzschke caught Targgart’s fly ball and threw Lane out at home. 

Freshman Kole Barkhaus pitched the final three innings in dominating fashion for the Trojans, striking out five and allowing just one hit and two walks. Patton, Fox and Barkhaus did exactly what was need to give the Trojans a chance for the late heroics.

“Matt did a really good job, there was only one ball that was going to get out of here and their kid hit it. I though Matt competed really well,” Gould said. “Kole just kept us in it. You’re sitting there thinking, “Boy we have no momentum we’ve nothing going but we’ve got to keep them at one.

“He’s had a great freshman year, he had three or four bad outings at the beginning of the year but he’s been incredible his last 30 innings,” he added. “He brings a lot of energy to the team and we really needed that out of Kole.”

No. 7 Oklahoma Wesleyan entered the tournament as the NAIA’s leader in team ERA (2.32) and second in runs scored (570) and slugging percentage (.572). The Eagles scored two runs in the first and fourth innings, four in both the second and fifth and cruised to a 13-2 win over the Trojans Monday night.

Taylor awaits the winner of Cumberland (Tenn.), a 13-8 loser to No. 24 Freed-Hardeman, and Northwestern, for a loser’s bracket game at 7:30 tonight in Upland. Northeastern and Cumberland meet at noon followed by Oklahoma Wesleyan and Freed-Hardman at 3:30 p.m.