KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A late rally propelled top-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan to a 6-5 victory over No. 3 seed Missouri Baptist Friday to keep the Bulldogs as the lone undefeated team remaining in the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round - Kingsport Bracket.
Tennessee Wesleyan (45-16 overall) advances to Saturday's championship game where it awaits its opponent. The game is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. first pitch.
Meanwhile, Missouri Baptist (32-12 overall) remains alive and will face the winner of the game between No. 4 seed Taylor (Ind.) and No. 5 seed Benedictine-Springfield (Ill.) on Saturday at 11 a.m. The winner of that game will face Tennessee Wesleyan for the berth to the AVISTIA-NAIA World Series.
The Spartans proved to be worthy adversaries as they overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 5-2 at the end of seven innings. Down 2-1, Missouri Baptist rallied for three runs in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead. Joe Stropp put the Spartans up 3-2 with a two-run double and later scored on a sac fly to make it a two-run game. In the seventh, Joseph Taylor homered to make it a 5-2 contest.
Tennessee Wesleyan bounced back, scoring four runs in the top of the eighth to grab a one-run advantage. With the bases loaded and one out, Logan Stone lofted a sac fly to push across the first run. Brackton Smith then singled to cut the margin to 5-4, and Josh McCray followed with another run-scoring single to even things up. Brad Carpenter capped the rally with a single up the middle, sending the Bulldogs ahead 6-5.
Missouri Baptist collected a hit in the bottom of the eighth but failed to score. Noah Piard then set down the Spartans in order in the ninth to lock up the 6-5 win and his 18th save of the year.
McCray led Tennessee Wesleyan at the plate in going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Tyler Wilson picked up the win, tossing one inning in relief to improve to 3-3.
Patrick Johnson went 3-for-5 for Missouri Baptist with a run scored, and Matt Marsh suffered the loss, dropping his record to 2-3.