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IWU, Taylor split Crossroads doubleheader

OUT AT SECOND: Indiana Wesleyan second baseman Nick Coy applies a tag as Taylor's Josh Lane to attempts to steal second base in the fifth inning of the Trojans' 6-5 win in the opening game of a doubleheader Monday afternoon in Upland. IWU rebounded to win the second game 14-1.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Brian Fields’ two hits couldn’t have been much different for the Taylor University baseball team on Monday afternoon, but the effects were nearly identical.

Fields pounded a three-run homer to center field in the third inning that pulled the Trojans even at 4-4 with cross-county and Crossroads League rival Indiana Wesleyan.

Though not nearly as majestic, Fields’ high-bounding single over a drawn in IWU infield in the bottom of the seventh drove home the tying and winning runs as the Trojans walked off with a 6-5 win over the Wildcats in the opening game of a doubleheader.

While the first game featured a dramatic ending, IWU pounded all drama out of the nightcap early on. The Wildcats scored seven runs over the first three innings then added seven more in the sixth and hit seven home runs in the process to take a 14-1 win and two of three games from Taylor. The Wildcats won the series opener on Friday, 6-4 in 10 innings.

Taylor's winning rally in the opener was started by Wyatt Whitman's single and aided by IWU's defense. Josh Lane put down a sacrifice bunt but a throwing error by IWU relief pitcher Zee Breytenbach allowed Whitman to advance all the way to third and Lane to go to second setting the table for Fields.

"I was looking to hit something hard backside," said the right-handed hitting Fields, "just so we could keep moving. Even if I didn't barrel it it would at least get one of the runs in."

Fields didn't get the barrel of his bat on the ball but hit it hard enough into the Taylor's infield artificial turf to send a high bouncer over the Wildcats drawn in first baseman. Whitman scored easily, as did Lane after the throw from right field sailed wide of home plate.

"We fought back and were able to get one there," said Taylor coach Kyle Gould. "I thought we had good at bats all game but we left a couple guys on base. Their guy (Caleb) Eder, just about single handedly beat us. Wyatt had a big hit there and they made a mistake and Brian Fields, what a game he had."

Brady West gave the Wildcats a quick 1-0 lead with one out in the first with a long home run to center. Eder followed with a two-out double and scored on Tye Thixton's single for a 2-0 lead after half an inning.

Taylor got a run back in its half of the first on Whitman's two-out RBI single.

West was hit by a pitch to lead off the third and scored on the first of Eder's two home runs in the game putting IWU in front, 4-1.

The Trojans threatened in the second and third innings but stranded five of their nine runners in those two frames.

Nathan Targgart and Whitman both had singles to start the Trojan fourth, before Fields connected with one out for his three-run homer.

Eder's second home run was a solo shot with two outs in the fifth and put IWU back on top, 5-4.

IWU starter Conner Cantrell pitched four innings allowing nine hits and all of Taylor's first four runs. Johnny Rohde pitched the first two innings in relief and allowed just a single hit while striking out three.    

"He's thrown three complete games his last four starts, but today he didn't have his best stuff," Benjamin said of Cantrell. "He was really competitive with it and gave us a chance to win. Rohde came in and he was excellent and gave us a chance to win the game."

Mitch Ubelhor earned the win for Taylor by recording the final two outs in the top of the seventh.

Benjamin's message to the Wildcats between games was short and simple.

"We've got a chance to win a series," he said. There's two good teams playing baseball less than two weeks before the conference tournament and you've got  a chance to win a series on the road against a good club so bounce back and play well."

IWU got three home runs off the bat of freshman Ethan English, who drove in four runs in game two. Nick Coy, Thixton, Tanner Killian and West also homered for the Wildcats. Eder pitched five innings giving up just three hits and striking out nine to earn the win.

Taylor (32-15, 12-11 in Crossroads League hosts Mount Vernon Nazarene at 4 p.m. today in a single game.

Indiana Wesleyan (20-26, 14-10 in CL) closes its regular season with a three-game set starting Friday at Huntington.