Third-seeded Missouri Baptist used a five-run rally in the seventh, along with outstanding relief pitching to stave off elimination in the 2013 NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round - Kingsport Bracket, as the Spartans bested Benedictine-Springfield, 8-4, at Hunter Wright Stadium on Saturday.
With the win, Missouri Baptist (32-13) moves onto the Championship Game of the bracket against Tennessee Wesleyan, set to be played later this afternoon. Benedictine-Springfield (25-25) was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.
In the second, Benedictine-Springfield was first to strike, plating four runs in the inning to take a 4-0 lead. The score remained that way until the bottom of the fifth, where Missouri Baptist finally got on the board with a pair of runs to cut the Bulldog lead in half at 4-2.
It remained 4-2 into the bottom of the seventh, where Missouri Baptist struck. The Spartans got things going in the inning with a walk, then a single, which prompted a Bulldog pitching change.
With new pitcher Drake Hardin in, Ryan Gunhouse gave the Spartans their first lead of the day with one swing, lifting a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to push MBU into the 5-4 lead. Later in the inning, the Spartans went up for good on another long ball, this time of the two-run variety by Ricky Pagan. With the homer, Missouri Baptist went up 7-4 after seven.
The run support was more than enough for reliever Chris Cordova to work with, as he tossed six innings of shutout ball, allowing just one hit, while striking out three.
Overall, shortstop Patrick Johnson led Missouri Baptist at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a run scored. Gunhouse's only hit of the day was the three-run homer in the seventh, as the left fielder ended the day with four RBI. Meanwhile, center fielder Ryan Clarke went 1-for-2 and scored three runs.
On the mound, Cordova (2-0) earned the win. For Benedictine-Springfield, Hardin (0-1) was the loser.