Missouri Baptist University Athletics
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Baseball - Wed, Jun. 7, 2017

ST. LOUIS – It was the second time in four years that it happened, and for Missouri Baptist, it shows that in the new world order of NAIA Baseball the Spartans have sealed their place among the nation's elite programs. Missouri Baptist capitalized on a strong season and an even better postseason to land in the 2017 Avista-NAIA World Series, completing a season on a high note in one of the most difficult championship in which to advance.

Missouri Baptist (45-16, 24-6 AMC) put together an impressive season which was capped-off in Lewiston, Idaho. The Spartans had their share of ups and downs throughout the year, but persevered through the season to end the campaign ranked No. 9 in the NAIA Top 25 Poll.

The Spartans began the year with some impressive wins, especially a 16-0 blasting of William Carey (Miss.), who began the year in the Top 25. Though the Crusaders were going through hardships of their own at the time, all signs pointed to a big year for Missouri Baptist.

The team also saw some surprising losses along the way. They dropped two against Bryan (Tenn.) in the second road swing of the year, and what was perhaps the most interesting of the group, a pair to Clarke (Iowa) in the Clay Pfeiffer Memorial Tournament. Clarke, unbeknownst to the rest of the NAIA, however, was about to have one of their best seasons in program history.

Missouri Baptist struggled early in the American Midwest Conference season, dropping two of three to both Central Baptist (Ark.) and William Woods (Mo.) before finding their rhythm.

After the series against the Owls, Missouri Baptist won its next eight straight contests and 25 of its final 27 games heading into the AMC Championship Tournament.

In the AMC Championship, things started-off on a sour note for the navy and white with a loss to tournament host, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.). The Spartans rebounded with four consecutive wins, knocking-out four straight opponents, before running into a loss in the title game against Lyon (Ark.)

Though they dropped the game, the team had put together enough of a resume already to earn a No. 2-seed in the NAIA Championship Opening Round in Hutchinson, Kan.

Missouri Baptist entered looking for a strong showing and got exactly that, as the team swept the competition in three games and advanced to the Avista-NAIA World Series for the first time since 2013.

The Spartans posted a 10-5 win over a dangerous Tabor (Kan.) squad before beating the No. 1-seeded Clarke 13-9. The pair of wins set-up a matchup with Tabor for the berth to the World Series, and Missouri Baptist struck a critical blow early in the contest.

The Spartans scored two in the first and five in the second to take a commanding 7-0 lead early, but the Blue Jays responded. A strong outing by the Missouri Baptist bullpen and a critical run in the top of the ninth sealed the deal.

Nick Vichio entered in the bottom of the ninth and did his job to near perfection. The junior from Lombard, Ill., struck out the first two batters before getting the top hitter in the Blue Jays' lineup, Jacob Jones, to pop out.

Missouri Baptist entered the World Series with a 2-2 All-Time record in the Spring Classic and improved that record in the first game. Though they collected just six hits, the Spartans had just enough to tame the hot Oklahoma Wesleyan bats with a 5-3 win. It was an impressive team performance, but even more impactful was the outing from Mike Syrett. The senior, in his lone outing in Lewiston, tossed six and a third innings and allowed six hits with six strikeouts to his credit.

Though the Spartans went on to drop the next two games to Faulkner (Ala.) and William Carey, it was another big season for the Spartans as 16 seniors said goodbye to the team. Culver Plant, Pat Boyle, Nick Hynes, Aaron Pangilinan, Bobby Evans, Grant Glusenkamp, Brandon Nunn, Drew Kitson, Angel Cruz, Aaron Collazo, Donnie Lovelady, Kyle Keck, Mike Syrett, Brandon Schlichtig, Austin Rieman and Nate Green all finished their career in 2017.

For some of those names, this will not be the final baseball they will play in their career. Culver Plant began his professional career with the Southern Illinois Miners in the Frontier League with a 3-5 game including two doubles.

For many others, it has become a waiting game as the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft is set to begin on June 12. Vichio leads the crop of Spartans who will look to get a shot in the minors.