Western Washington’s John Barney collides with Idaho State catcher Kris Gokey for the winning score Sunday. (Brad Mosher/The Observer)
One play. One run. One win. One loss. One error.
That was just how close Idaho State University’s club baseball team came to earning a ticket to the World Series tournament in Tampa.
Instead, Western Washington University rode the arm of John Barney for eight innings as he held the ISU Bengals’ batters in check from the mound.
But it was when he shoved ISU catcher Kris Gokey out of the way to score that he helped muscle his team to the Northern Pacific Regional collegiate club baseball title and a spot in the World Series with a narrow 2-1 victory Sunday.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Barney singled, then turned an overthrow to first into two more bases.
At third, he charged toward the plate even before Pete Carlson bunted down the third-base line.
By the time the ISU third baseman got to the ball, Barney was nearly home. Barney collided with the ISU catcher at the plate and got the run, giving WWU the lead again, 2-1, while Carlson was thrown out.
But the squeeze bunt worked. Carlson, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, got the winning run across. He batted in both WWU runs Sunday.
Western Washington took the lead in the bottom of the third when Carlson singled, scoring Michael Jones.
It was a 1-0 lead until Idaho State tied the game in the top of the eighth inning.
The Bengals mounted a two-out rally when Tory Hansen hit a single, scoring Tucker Daley to tie the game.
With that hit, Barney left the mound, moving out to right field, while Connor Long took the mound. Long got the next batter to fly out to center, ending the rally.
In the top of the ninth, Long handcuffed the Bengals, earning his spot at the the bottom of the team’s dogpile with the win.
For Idaho State University coach Bob Hunt, it was close — too close.
But he was heartened by the fact that he’s only losing two to graduation and that he expects his team to return to the championship game again next year.
“These are just a great bunch of ballplayers. They haven’t been here before,” Hunt said.
Hunt praised Brian Stevenson’s strong pitching effort, coming back to throw a complete game after pitching in Friday’s opener.
But the one thing he couldn’t overcome was a throwing error that sent Barney running all the way to third base.
“One error. That one inning ended up being the difference in the game. We had many opportunities in the game to win it, but we couldn’t take advantage of them,” Hunt said.
It was also some of the best he’s seen his team play this year, the coach said.
“It was still a banner year for ISU baseball,” the coach added.
According to Barney, the Vikings won the game and the tournament because they were aggressive on every play and used their team speed as much as possible. On Friday, it resulted in
On Sunday, it helped the Vikings win the Northern Pacific Conference’s regional title.
The Vikings are making a second trip to the World Series for club baseball teams.
“The last time we went, it was awesome. This time, we have a shot at winning the title,” Barney said.
“All we have to do is go down to Tampa and win some games.”
When he returned to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, he had a lead and needed just three outs for a trip to Tampa.
For another Viking coach, it was a real nail-biter.
“We came back after they scored. A big part of the win was we were up for the whole game (in the dugout),” Mason Weathers said.
“We weren’t trash talking. We were just in the game the entire game. I knew they had really good hitters and we’d have to challenge them,” Weathers said.
It was Weathers who walked out to the mound in the eighth inning when Barney was struggling.
He had just given up a walk, putting A.J. McNees on base with no outs.
Barney got help from teammates to get two straight outs before Hansen hit his single that scored the Bengals only run.
According to the conference coordinator for the regional tournament, Dano Jauregui, it was a great finish to the tournament. “People couldn’t have asked for a better game than this,” he said.
Vikings open with wins
Western Washington won its first game Friday, defeating Montana by a 9-4 margin.
The Vikings followed that win with a 7-3 victory Saturday over Idaho State to move into Sunday’s title game with a perfect 2-0 tournament record.
For the Bengals, the path to the title game Sunday took a longer route.
Idaho State opened the tournament with a 6-3 win over the Oregon Ducks Friday, after the Bengals took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
They held off the Ducks the rest of the way, even though Oregon outhit Idaho State by a 12-to-11 margin.
After Saturday’s loss dropped the Bengals into the loser’s bracket, Idaho State had to wait to play the winner of the game between University of Oregon and University of Montana.
It was the Grizzlies that ended the Oregon run in the regional tournament, handing the Ducks an 8-4 loss.
Ironically, the Ducks scored first with runs in the second and third inning, but the 2-0 Oregon lead didn’t hold up when Montana scored eight runs in the next three innings.
The Grizzlies scored one in the fifth and two in the sixth, taking a 3-2 lead.
But it was the five-run outburst in the seventh inning that overwhelmed the Ducks.
Montana scored in the bottom of the seventh when a bases-loaded walk sent the first Grizzly across the plate.
Then Will Cote hit a 2-RBI single that gave Montana 6-2 lead and prompted Oregon to pull out its relief pitcher after only three batters, no outs, a walk and a batter hit by a pitch.
Ryan Tacke made it a 7-2 lead when he followed with an RBI single off the new Oregon pitcher.
A sacrifice fly by Emmit Stangel scored the final Montana run of the game, giving the Grizzlies an 8-2 lead.
A ninth-inning rally by Oregon cut the lead to 8-4, but that was as close as the Ducks would get.
Bengals bury Grizzlies
In the battle between Montana and Idaho State for the title shot, the Bengals scored first with two runs in the third inning.
Idaho State added six more in the fourth inning, taking an 8-0 lead, before the Grizzlies could finally score in the top of the seventh inning.
Idaho State added two runs of its own in the bottom of the seventh to put the game out of reach.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, it was Logan Horrocks opening the at-bat with a bang — a triple.
He scored on a passed ball, making it a 3-0 Bengal advantage.
Tanner Daley hit a 2-RBI single to give Idaho State a 5-0 lead. Then he scored on a single by Nate Mortensen.
McNees hit a single, scoring Hansen, bringing Horrocks back to the plate in the inning. Horrocks responded with a single that scored Mortensen for the 8-0 lead.
The Bengals belted the Montana pitcher for six runs on six hits, and also got help from two Montana errors.
The NCBA World Series Tournament starts at the University of Tampa May 24.