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Eagles overcome first-game jitters, rally to beat Trinity Christian in NCCAAs

Caleb Price (left) and Robert Rosser (center) lead the cheers from the OC dugout after Blake Stringer scores to give OC the lead in the eighth inning against Trinity Christian.
Caleb Price (left) and Robert Rosser (center) lead the cheers from the OC dugout after Blake Stringer scores to give OC the lead in the eighth inning against Trinity Christian.

MASON, Ohio (May 14, 2014) – Whether it was nerves, the field conditions or the opposition, Oklahoma Christian wasn’t at its best on a wet Wednesday in its National Christian College Athletic Association World Series opener against Trinity Christian (Ill.).

Even so, the top-seeded Eagles found a way to win on a bizarre day on which they started a baseball game on one field and finished on another. Zac Cobble doubled in the bottom of the 11th and scored on a wild pitch to lift OC past the eighth-seeded Trolls 4-3.

OC (38-15) extended its winning streak to 11 games and avoided the fate of the next two highest seeds in the 10-team field, which each lost their openers. Rain washed out the Eagles’ scheduled game Wednesday night against Bluefield (Va.), so now OC will play that game at 1 p.m. Thursday, followed by a game at 7 p.m. against Shorter (Ga.).

A sweep of those games would put the Eagles into Saturday’s semifinals. OC also will have a pool-play game Friday against Fresno Pacific (Calif.).

“I thought we played a little uptight early,” OC coach Lonny Cobble said. “Their pitcher did a great job of keeping us off-balance. I’m just very excited that we got a win and hopefully we can settle down and play better.”

OC coaches opted to start senior Tyler Sturges against Trinity Christian (26-21) and the right-hander responded with his second straight strong performance, allowing just three hits and two runs in five innings. But the Eagles had trouble solving the Trolls’ starter, Danny Britt, who lasted eight innings and surrendered only three runs.

A RBI double by J.T. Yocum put Trinity Christian up 1-0 in the second inning and the Trolls extended their lead to 2-0 in the top of the fifth, when Joe Presutti singled and eventually scored on a single by Peter Krygsheld.

OC finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. Caden Cleveland led off with a single to left field and Chase Kuwitzky pinch-ran for him. Cory Eastwood was hit by a pitch, then Zac Cobble sacrificed both runners up a base. Kuwitzky scored on a sacrifice fly by A.J. Florence.

Kuwitzky pinch-ran for Robert Rosser (who had singled) in the sixth and scored on a wild pitch by Britt, tying the game. Blake Stringer led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and scored on a groundout by Sean Murphy to put OC ahead 3-2.

Normally rock-solid OC closer Dillon Endecott, who entered the game second in the NCCAA with 13 saves, struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth. But one strike away from finishing the game, he surrendered a double to Mark Munizzi and Joe McCaw followed with a RBI single to tie the game.

By this time rain was steadily falling at Prasco Park, but the Eagles still batted in the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases with one out but Stringer – who otherwise had a great day, going 3-for-5 – grounded into a double play.

Officials then suspended the game for at least two hours, so the Eagles boarded their bus to head back to their hotel. But the bus turned back around when it was decided to finish the game at adjacent Legacy Field, which has an artificial-turf surface.

With one out in the 11th, Zac Cobble doubled off Trinity Christian reliever Brad Kopale (2-3), took third on a flyout by Caleb Price, then scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Kopale.

OC reliever Tyler Schuman (4-2), the Eagles’ sixth pitcher of the day, threw a scoreless 11th inning to record the win.

“It was very intense and exciting,” Lonny Cobble said, “and I had a major headache when it was over!”