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HUTCHINSON, Kan. – [BOX SCORE] It took three hours and 31 minutes to complete, but when the dust settled, Missouri Baptist found itself one win away from a berth to the 2017 Avista-NAIA World Series. The Spartans recorded 13 runs on 10 hits as they knocked-off the No. 1-seeded Clarke (Iowa) 13-9.
Missouri Baptist (43-14) forced the Crusaders to the elimination side of the Hutchinson Bracket as Clarke committed a stunning eight errors in the game.
The contest began as a near mirror image of the first game of the Opening Round against Tabor (Kan.) for the Spartans. Missouri Baptist allowed a run in the top of the first before a solo home run tied it in the bottom half. Culver Plant delivered a solo home run to center field to tie the game at one. That was not, however, the lone run that the Spartans pushed across the plate in the inning.
After a walk to Drew Kitson, Austin Rieman hit an RBI double to left center field to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead. Missouri Baptist never trailed past this point. John Hagan singled home Rieman on the next at-bat to make it 3-1 and Missouri Baptist was off to the races.
Things got dicey for the Crusaders as they sent their ace, Michael Lopez, to the hill. Entering the game, the right-handed starter was 12-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Lopez, however, did not stick around for long. Missouri Baptist added four more in the second, capped-off with a three-run home run from Kitson, and forced a pitching change with no outs and a 7-1 lead.
Clarke went to Tucker Mai, who struck-out the first three batters he saw, and closed the door on Missouri Baptist in the inning.
The Spartans added another run in the third and fourth before the Crusaders struck back.
Through four innings Missouri Baptist starter Pat Boyle was cruising with no walks and seven strikeouts. He was unable, however, to continue that momentum through five. Boyle walked four batters in the frame, causing Coach Eddie Uschold to go to the bullpen.
Robby Brewster allowed a two-RBI single to Evan Faccenda, but that was the extent of the damage. Stephan Zanoni grounded into a 6-3 double play before Kevin Hunley flied-out to left to end the inning.
The Spartan offense, in the end, proved too much to handle. Missouri Baptist scored at least one run in every inning except for the eighth on their way to a 2-0 record in championship play.
Brewster picked-up the win and improved his record to 6-2 while Lopez was handed his first loss of the season. In his outing, the Clarke starting pitcher allowed seven runs, six of which were earned, in just one inning.
Nick Vichio picked-up his 12th save of the season, this time in a four-out effort. He added two strikeouts in the ninth in the process. He ranks fourth in the nation in saves.
Missouri Baptist was led by Culver Plant. The senior came a triple short of the cycle with a four-hit day. Kyle Keck provided three hits and two RBI in the nine-hole while Aaron Collazo and John Hagan finished with two hits apiece.
Hagan, Plant and Kitson all homered for Missouri Baptist as they punched their ticket to the Championship game on Wednesday.
Missouri Baptist will play the winner of the 11:00 a.m. game on Wednesday for a shot at their second-ever berth to the Avista-NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. The free audio broadcast on the Spartan Digital Network will begin approximately 10 minutes prior to first pitch.