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KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Missouri Baptist took a 5-2 lead into the 8th inning on Friday afternoon, but allowed defending national champion Tennessee Wesleyan four runs in in the eighth inning in a 6-5 loss at the NAIA National Championship Opening Round Tournament.
Missouri Baptist (32-12) dug themselves into a two-run hole in the second inning, but exploded for three runs in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead. MBU extended the lead in the seventh with a solo homerun by Jo Jo Taylor, but was unable to hold the advantage.
No. 1-seed Tennessee Wesleyan mounted a four-run comeback in the eighth inning and took a late lead 6-5 lead, putting Missouri Baptist on its heels for the final two trips to the plate. After loading the bases with two consecutive walks in the eighth inning, Julien Soucy was pulled with one out in favor Matt Marsh.
The Spartan closer got Logan Dalton to fly out to right, which scored first baseman Jake Stone to make it 5-3. Three-straight Bulldog singles later, Tennessee Wesleyan finished its offensive outburst with four runs in the inning and the lead.
The Bulldogs went 10-34 at the plate and held Missouri Baptist to just one hit in the final two innings. Designated hitter Josh McCray led Tennessee Wesleyan on the day. He went 3-4 with two RBI on the day.
Spartan starter Julien Soucy pitched seven and a third innings, but ran into serious trouble in the eighth. The righty recorded five strikeouts, but was hung with all five Bulldog runs.
Joe Stropp came through with MBU's biggest hit on the day. The junior drove the first pitch he saw in the sixth inning to the gap in right field, which scored pinch runner Geoff MacDonald and Ricky Pagan, and gave the team from St. Louis its first lead of the day.
Tennessee Wesleyan's Tyler Wilson recorded the win in a relief effort. Wilson threw a solid seventh inning and held the Spartans to just one hit. Noah Piard recorded his 18th save of the season in a 13-pitch outing where he recorded two strikeouts.
With the win, Tennessee Wesleyan will advance to the championship game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as the final undefeated team in the Kingsport Bracket. Missouri Baptist, on the other hand, will move to the loser's bracket and face the winner of this evening's rematch between No. 4-seed Taylor University and No. 5-seed Benedictine-Springfield.
Game time for Saturday will be 10:00 a.m. CST for Missouri Baptist.