CLEBURNE, Texas – Midland University opened up their spring schedule over the weekend at the 2018 Alpine Fresh 4-Him Classic. They went 3-1 in the tournament, only dropping their opener against No. 16 Tabor College. They followed the setback with wins over Dallas Christian College, Ottawa University and Southwestern Christian University and were named champions of the six team field.
In the opener, Tabor scored a run in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings as they defeated Midland 4-3. The Warriors got all three of their runs in the third. Armando Fajardo doubled home Buddy Balsino who reached on an error and then Tanner Bos cleared the bases with a two-run home run over the left field fence. Dakota Cortese received the loss after going 5.0 innings, striking out nine batters, giving up four hits and allowing two earned runs.
The Warriors bats came alive in the night cap against Dallas Christian on the opening day. Midland scored at least two runs in every inning as they cruised to a 19-5 win. Fajardo hit his first home run as a Warrior in the first inning, a three-run shot to right field, to give Midland a 3-1 lead after one.
Midland scored five runs in the second and third to push the lead even further. Billy Brand and Balsino both homered in the third. Brand had a solo shot over the left field fence and Balsino a three-run blast to left as well.
Dallas Christian attempted a rally in the top of the fourth, but could only muster a pair of runs and trailed 13-5 heading into the bottom half of the inning. Midland would tack on another four runs and then sealed the game in the fifth with two more. The Warriors defeated the Crusaders 19-5 in six innings. Julius Raval earned the win giving up five runs in 4.0 innings of work with six strikeouts.
On Saturday Midland had to rally back from an early three-run deficit against Ottawa to earn a spot in the championship game. The Warriors had a pair of errors in the inning that allowed the Braves to come away with the early 3-0 lead.
The Braves would return the favor in the top of the second as they had an error of their own that allowed a pair of runs. Ottawa would get one back though in the bottom of the inning and held a 4-2 lead after three innings.
In the fourth the Warrior bats came alive as they strung together four hits, two of which were extra bases, and scored three runs to take the lead. Daylon Owens, who settled down after the tough start, would strikeout three over the next two innings before turning it over Hayden Bailey, who picked up the save.
Owens gave up just four hits in five innings of work and struck out six batters. Bailey pitched two innings, allowed no hits and struck out three.
In the championship game, the Warriors faced off with Southwestern Christian and they trotted out Torrey Escamilla to the mound for the first time this spring. The 2017 NAIA Honorable Mention All-American responded with a gem. He went the complete game, 7.0 innings, striking out a career-high 13 batters and allowing just three hits.
With their ace on the mound the Warriors didn’t need many runs to earn the win. They got more than enough in the fourth inning when they put up six runs.
After Balsino reached on an error, the Warriors had four straight reach base as Nate Calles, Andrew Brooks, Justin Trevino and Billy Brand all singled while Nolan Luzzi earned a walk. Midland scored three runs in that stretch and then added three more with two outs. Bos was walked, bringing home a run, then Luzzi and Brand each scored on a single by Balsino is his second plate appearance in the inning. They would add another run in the fifth to seal the 7-0 win and tournament title.
Midland will head south to warmer weather again this weekend as they travel to Joplin, Missouri for another set of four games starting on February 17. They’ll face Culver-Stockton, Graceland on Saturday and Waldorf and Grand View on Sunday.