Northwestern College gave up a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to fall to Taylor (Ind.) 2-1 in the first game of the Upland Bracket of the 2018 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round played Monday morning at Winterholter Field in Upland, Ind.
The Red Raiders, now 30-19, will now play No.3 Cumberland (Tenn.) in an elimination game on Tuesday at 11am (CST). Cumberland fell to No.2 seed Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) on a 13-8 Monday.
The Red Raiders held a 1-0 lead with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, just two outs away from the win, when Taylor began its rally. Nathan Targgart reached base off an error and was lifted for pinch runner Jonathan Foster, who advanced to second on a stolen base. Tanner Watson followed with a deep fly ball to left field that was misplayed by the Red Raiders, scoring Foster from second and put Watson all the way at third with one out. Following a pitching change, Sam Wiese delivered the game-winner on a 1-2 pitch from Northwestern closer Tanner Ortlund, hitting a walkoff single to right-centerfield that scored Watson.
Noah McBride (6-3) pitched a gem despite being tagged with the loss, giving up five hits and no earned runs in 8.1 innings. The freshman walked two, struck out two and kept Taylor’s hitters off balance all game long with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches.
Northwestern mustered only three hits, two infield singles by A.J. Nitzschke and a solo home run by Christian Stekl, his fourth of the season.
Scoreless after five innings, Stekl produced the Red Raiders lone run with a two-out, solo home run off Taylor starter Matt Patton. Northwestern put baserunners on in each of the final three innings but was unable to plate a valuable insurance run.
Taylor had a great chance to score and tie the game in the bottom of the sixth when Josh Lane doubled and stole third on a close play with one out. Targgart then hit a fly ball that was caught by Northwestern rightfielder A.J. Nitzschke, who threw out Lane at home for the double play.
Kole Barkhaus, the third Taylor pitcher, earned the win (3-1), giving one hit and two walks in the final three innings. Patton went 5.2 innings, giving up two hits, one earned run and Rob Fox recorded the final out of the sixth inning in the only batter he faced.
Taylor improves to 44-14 and will play top-seed Oklahoma Wesleyan tonight at 7:30pm.