Baseball Advances Behind Bell's Gem
Kinston, N.C. - An 0-17 start seems like a distant memory after Asbury baseball won their second tournament in as many weeks to advance to the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round for the first time in school history. The Eagles defeated No. 10 Point Park 7-3 in the deciding game after Point Park forced the second game after a 15-7 victory earlier in the day.
Asbury junior Isaiah Bell (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was called on to start for the second time against the Pioneers in the tournament. Bell (4-5) turned in a masterful performance, turning in 7 innings of six-hit ball while allowing only one run and two walks and striking out four. On Tuesday Bell threw 9 innings allowing four runs on four hits.
The Eagles (18-37) scored in the first as back-to-back hits by Tyler Weaver and Danny Olszowy put runners on the corners with two outs. Tyler Wooden hit a shallow fly ball to left that didn't look deep enough to score Weaver but left-fielder Rob Novia was slow to get the ball back to the infield and Weaver took advantage.
In the third inning Asbury busted through against starter Isaiah Marsh with four hits in the inning. Casey Messner led off the inning with a bunt hit down the third base line, one of four hits in the game and eight hits on the day for Messner. After two outs and a walk Simeon Bell delivered a single to plate Messner and Tyler Messner followed with a two run double into the left center gap. The younger Messner had three hits in the game after starting at first base. He also had two hits in a game one start.
Point Park (48-9) scored their line run off of Bell in the bottom of the third, breaking a streak of seven straight retired by the righty. A bases loaded double play to end the inning preserved the three run lead and started a new stream of eight in a row retired. They would add an unearned run off of Brad Williams in the eighth before answered back with two in the ninth.
Williams, pitching on one day of rest after a complete game victory over Edward Waters on Wednesday, picked up his first save of the season, pitching the final two innings. The senior allowed three hits and struck out two.
Eight of nine starters collected a hit in the game and six had at least two in the game. Asbury's offense came alive in Kinston, batting a robust .378 as a team and averaging seven runs a game. The Eagles a eager nearly 16 hits a game during the five games. Not to be outdone the pitching staff recorded a 4.21 ERA and held opponents to a .259 batting average. In the four wins starters averaged 8.1 innings and gave up only eight runs, six earned for a 1.64 ERA.
For the entire eight games in postseason play the Eagles are hitting .346 and have recorded at least 10 hits in seven of those games. They are scoring seven runs a game. The pitching staff has turned in a 3.55 ERA. During the regular season Asbury hit only .255 and the staff recorded a 7.88 ERA.
In game one on Friday the two teams traded a run in each of the first two innings but a seven spot in the third for Point Park seemingly put the game out of reach. Jordan Cox, making his first start on the mound in almost three weeks, was knocked out in that inning as two batters were walked and two were hit.
The Eagles responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame but left the bases loaded, a theme throughout the game. Point Park added one in the fourth and two in the fifth to push the margin to 12-5. Asbury scored once more in the sixth but again left the bases loaded, they would do so again in the eighth. The Eagles collected a season-high 19 hits in the game and left 14 on base.
The Eagles four pitchers combined to walk 10 and hit four as Point Park collected 15 hits. The Pioneers left 12 on base.
The NAIA National Tournament Opening Round is held at nine different sites around the country. Each site features five teams seeded 1-5 in a double elimination tournament. The winner of each Opening Round is sent to Lewiston, Idaho for the NAIA World Series along with the tournament hosts Lewis-Clark State College. Asbury will learn their fate in the 46-team tournament on Sunday at approximately 4 pm.
Detailed information about everything you need to know about the Opening Round including location, game times, opponents and hotel accommodations will be posted as they are made available by the NAIA.