UPLAND, Ind – It was history in the making Wednesday afternoon at Taylor University’s Winterholter Field as the top-seeded Huntington baseball team breezed past 3rd-seeded Marian University 15-3 to claim the Crossroads League tournament championship. The win is the Foresters’ seventh tourney title but more importantly, marks the first time in program history that HU has been crowned the league regular season champs as well as the tournament champs.
After giving up a run in the top of the first, Coach Frame’s crew reeled off the game’s next nine runs to open up a 9-1 lead by the fourth inning. The game was never in question after that and was reminiscent of the whole tournament as HU’s average margin of victory throughout the tourney was just under 11 runs. The Foresters outscored their league foes 53-10 over the course of the four-day tournament.
Huntington scored at least two runs in five of the nine innings with the fourth frame proving to be the most productive as they scored six times, all of the unearned variety, by way of four Knight errors and just one hit. But it was baseball’s biggest hit of them all as Mike Crowley unloaded for his seventh dinger of the year with bases loaded for a rare grand slam.
While Crowley highlighted HU’s offense, it was a well-balanced Forester attack when all was said and done. Tyler Zimske blasted a two-run shot over the left field fence in the bottom of the sixth and scored three times. Dalton Combs, beaned three times, tripled in two runs and also scored three times while Shea Beauchamp finished with a hit and three RBI.
Just as Forester fans have come to enjoy a high octane offense, they have also come to appreciate HU’s lock down pitching and today’s performance at the mound didn’t disappoint. Connor West spent the first 4.2 innings in the circle where he gave up six hits and three runs before being relieved by Tarrin Beachy who tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win.
Beachy (4-1) gave up just one hit while striking out four of the 11 batters he faced. Caleb Landrum wrapped things up by retiring the side in order in the top of the ninth to spur the dog pile celebration at the mound.
As the regular season champs, Huntington (33-11) received an automatic bid to the 2017 NAIA National Tournament while the Knights (29-21) earned the league’s second automatic bid as the tournament runner-ups. Both teams will find out tomorrow afternoon where they will be playing the opening round slated for May 15-17.