JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The 2019 season came to a close for the Midland University baseball team on Friday night as the Warriors were eliminated from the Great Plains Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament in a 10-7 loss to Northwestern.
The third-seeded Warriors (24-25 overall) dropped their opening game of the tournament to Northwestern 7-0 but stayed alive with a 9-6 win over Morningside on Friday before losing the rematch with the Red Raiders late Friday night.
Midland was shut down on Thursday by Northwestern starter Brady Roberts who tossed a complete game shutout and allowed just five hits in the game. The defense behind Roberts was perfect and committed zero errors on plenty of chances as Roberts only struck out two batters.
In an elimination game on Friday, the Warriors struck first against the seventh-seeded Mustangs as Matt Abdelnour ripped a two-RBI single to centerfield in the top of the first inning. The Mustangs got one run back in the bottom half on a Nic Metcalf RBI groundout.
The Warriors grabbed two more runs in the third inning on Austin Hamilton’s two-run home run to right field, but Morningside didn’t stay down long and answered back with two runs in the bottom of the third and two more in the fourth inning to take a 5-4 lead.
Despite that rough patch, Midland starter Daylon Owens stayed steady and settled in to keep his teammates within striking distance. The Warriors plated four runs in the sixth inning after James Kasier led off the inning with a solo home run to tie the game at 5-5.
Later in the inning, Peyton Garbers laced a two-RBI single to left field. Hunter Holverson pinch ran for Garbers and later scored on a double play ball.
Owens allowed one run in the bottom of the inning on a two-out double from Andrew Kasperbauer but still maintained an 8-6 lead. In the ninth inning, Hamilton homered again his sixth of the season, and gave Owens some insurance as he worked around a leadoff single to secure a complete game win.
The senior star allowed 11 hits and five earned runs but managed to carry his team to a victory in a gritty pitching effort to conclude his career as a Warrior.
Midland didn’t have much time to rest as the Warriors took the field again just 30 minutes later for a rematch with Northwestern in another elimination game.
Midland had to play from behind all game as the Red Raiders scored one run in the first inning, two in the second, and other in the fourth off starter James Scurto.
The Warriors got one run back in the fourth inning, but the Red Raiders grabbed three more in the fifth to force Scurto from the game and take a 7-1 lead.
Trying to stay close, Dakota Thornton added an RBI single in the sixth, but the Red Raiders minimized he damage and held the lead. In the eighth, Northwestern again used a three-run inning to widen the margin and go up 10-2.
Those three runs proved pivotal as the Warriors refused to end their season without putting up a great fight.
In the bottom of the eighth, Sam Braun’s two-run home run brought the Warriors a little closer, as did another two runs in the ninth inning thanks to RBIs from Garbers and Braun, but it wasn’t enough as Northwestern advanced with a 10-7 win.
After a difficult start to the season, it looked as though the Warriors were on pace to earn a much lower seed than they ended up with. The Warriors played themselves back into the top of the conference and came close to hosting half of the bracket for what would have been the four straight season.
Midland’s run of three-straight NAIA National Tournament appearances will also come to an end as the Warriors are unlikely to earn an at-large berth to the 2019 tournament. After starting the season at 7-10 and falling to 5-7 in conference play, the Warriors won 11 of their final 16 conference games to give themselves a chance at making a postseason run.
It’s a disappointing ending, but it’s also a reminder of how well the program has performed in the last three years and how hard it is to maintain success in a competitive conference. Midland will return next season ready to start a new streak and get back to the heights that the Warriors have proven they can reach.