For the first time in school history, Murray State College in Tishomingo, Okahoma is home to a National Title team. The Murray State College baseball team finished out a historic season on Saturday, by defeating the Louisiana State College-Eunice Bengals in the championship game of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. The number one-ranked Bengals came into the game the heavy favorite, and defending champions. LSU-Eunice is a regular contender in the World Series, winning it all in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Murray State College was making the first appearance in the national tournament, after winning the Region 2 and Plains District titles for the first time in school history.
The national championship game was held at David Allen Memorial Ballpark in Enid, Oklahoma. The weather for the game was beautiful, with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. The high winds that plagued the ballpark most of the week had also died down, leaving only a gentle breeze. Fans filled the stadium to record what appeared to be a standing room only game. MSC won the coin toss Friday night, earning the right to be the home team. As the Aggies were the only Oklahoma team in the tournament, and play Northern Oklahoma College-Enid at the ballpark during their regular season, David Allen field already felt like a home-field advantage for the players. Blue-clad Murray State fans filled the seats behind home plate, and all along the third base line, and seats along the first base line were a sea of purple for the visiting LSU-Eunice team.
The energy in the stadium was electric as the Aggies took the field for the top of the first inning. After two quick outs, it was looking good for Murray State. That would soon change with the Bengals striking first, scoring two runs before the final out. The Aggies would go scoreless in the bottom of the inning, and Horn shut down the Bengals in the top of the second.
Jared Sterling led off the bottom of the second with a double down the left field line. After back to back walks for Brandon Grimsley and Brance Kahle, a ball past the LSU-E catcher scores Sterling from third. After a pitching change for the Bengals, an Eddie Kieffer single drops into shallow left-center to score Grimsley, and ties up the game at 2.
The Bengals would score again in the top of the third on a solo home run to go ahead 3-4, but the Aggies answer again in the bottom of the inning. MSC leads off with back to back doubles. Noel Nevarez hit a ball to the wall in right-center, and was driven home by an Ingram hit down the right field line to tie the game at three. Grimsley would drive Ingram home with a line drive single for what would be the game winning run.
The final six innings would all be about defense for both teams, including an outstanding outing by Horn on the mound for the Aggies. There were tense moments with 3-0 pitch counts, balls hit deep and runners in scoring position, but Horn stayed steady and the MSC defense remained consistent behind him. Defensive highlights for the Aggies dominated in the 8th inning with an incredible catch at the wall in left by Sterling and a great diving play by Brance Kahle at third and a stretch by Ingram to hold on to the ball at first. The Aggies hold on for the 3-4 win, and the title of national champions.
Offensively for the Aggies, Sterling had a double, a single and a run scored; Ingram had an RBI double and scored a run; Nevarez had a double and a run scored; Kieffer had an RBI single; Grimsley walked once, scored a run and had the game winning RBI single; and Colt Pickens had the Aggies’ only other hit on the night.
Horn pitches a complete game and gets the win for the Aggies. He gave up 3 earned runs and 7 hits and walked one. He also struck out 6.
In addition to the National Championship trophy, MSC players and coaches earned All-Tournament honors. Jared Sterling, Bradley Horn, Keach Ballard, Hunter Raley and Noel Nevarez were all named to the All-Tournament Team. Ballard earned Defensive Player of the Tournament honors. Raley was named Most Valuable Pitcher of the tournament. Raley was 2-0 in the tournament, with a 0.83 ERA over 12 innings. He gave up only 6 hits in the two games, and struck out ten. Nevarez was named the Tournament MVP. Nevarez had a .400 batting average, with three doubles, a home run and 6 RBIs in addition to several key defensive plays. MSC head coach Zach Crabtree was named Coach of the Tournament.