USAO rallies to take Opening Round title over BU

USAO rallies to take Opening Round title over BU

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BELLEVUE, Neb. -- The University of Science & Arts (Okla.) rallied from a 4-1 deficit, scoring four runs in the final two innings to grab a 5-4 win over host Bellevue University as the Drovers captured the NAIA National Championship Opening Round - Bellevue Bracket Thursday at Roddy Field. USAO advances to the Avista-NAIA World Series on May 26-June 2 in Lewiston, Idaho.

The Bruins ended the season with a 51-11 overall record, capturing the North Star Athletic Association regular-season title with a 23-1 conference mark.  

The Drovers grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single through the left side by Wyatt Hull that scored Christian Perez from third. 

The Bruins had runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings but could not capitalize until the fifth frame when a bases-loaded single up the middle by Riley Baasch and a Drover throwing error brought in three runs to give BU a 3-1 advantage. 

A two-out solo homer to left field by Derik Bontempo increased the Bruin lead to 4-1 in the top of the seventh inning. 

USAO responded in the top of the eighth inning with a solo home run to left center by Perez to cut the deficit to 4-2. After Bruin starter Colten Barnes gave up a walk and a single up the middle later in the same inning, he was replaced by David Mendez. Randy Ventura scored from third on a wild pitch by Mendez to make it 4-3 and an RBI single to left by Kenniel Rivera tied it up at 4-4 heading into the ninth. 

After the Bruins were retired in order in the top of the ninth, Henry Rodriguez doubled down the right-field line and scored on a two-base throwing error to give the Drovers the dramatic 5-4 victory. 

Mendez (0-1) was tagged with the loss, giving up two hits and one run with one strikeout in one inning of action. Barnes scattered six hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings on the mound. 

Carson Corff (8-0) went the distance, allowing seven hits and four runs with one walk and nine strikeouts in nine innings. 

Diego Irribaren went 3-for-4 on the day and scored a run. Baasch was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Perez and Rivera both finished 2-for-4 with an RBI in the USAO victory. 

USAO is now 44-15 on the season heading into the World Series.