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Eagles bow out in first round of national championship

Posted 5/23/23

The Central Methodist Baseball team saw its season come to an end in the Opening Round of the NAIA National Championship Fayette Bracket last Wednesday night after finishing 2-2.

The Eagles fell …

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Eagles bow out in first round of national championship


The Central Methodist Baseball team saw its season come to an end in the Opening Round of the NAIA National Championship Fayette Bracket last Wednesday night after finishing 2-2.

The Eagles fell to Kansas Wesleyan 3-1 in the first game of the national championship on May 16 on Estes Field. They rebounded with a 14-2 win over St. Francis that day and opened Wednesday with a 5-3 win over Madonna. But a second loss to Kansas Wesleyan, 16-7, on Wednesday ended Central’s postseason run.

Game 1 – May 16



Graduate pitcher Alan West allowed three runs on four hits in his eighth complete game of the season. He retired a game-high 14 batters on strikes while issuing just one walk. 

But despite West’s quality start, the Eagles’ offense couldn’t back him up. Central recorded five hits but struck out seven times, never reached on a walk, and stranded seven runners on base. 

Senior shortstop Robbie Merced batted a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate and swiped two bags. Tommaso Giarola and Joey Fitzgerald, Jr. each had one hit.

Central’s lone run came in the top of the third when pinch runner Terry Tolliver, Jr. scored on a wild pitch to give the Eagles a short-lived lead. 

Kansas Wesleyan answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer by Kendall Foster. An RBI single by Zack Beatty made it a 3-1 game.

Game 2 – May 16

CMU 14

St. Francis 2

After opening the championship with a loss, the Eagles moved to the elimination bracket, where they would square off against St. Francis (Ill.) in the nightcap. Central’s offense came alive against a battery of four Fighting Saints pitchers, scoring 14 runs on 14 hits, including five home runs.

Tanner Sears led the Eagle offense with three hits in six at-bats, which included a three-run home run in the ninth inning. Jeremy Conforti batted 3-for-6 with a solo home run in the fourth. 

Khalil Thrasher picked up a two-run home run in the second inning and also hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth. In addition, both West and Merced homered for the Eagles.

Sebastian Escobar earned his ninth win of the season. In eight complete innings, he allowed just two earned runs on 10 hits, only one of which went for extra bases, with two walks. He also struck out 10 batters.

Alexander Billo recorded one strikeout and issued one walk with zero runs or hits in one inning of relief.

Game 3 – May 17

Madonna 3


The Eagles began day two of the double-elimination tournament with a 5-3 victory over Madonna (Mich.) to stay alive. Central trailed 2-0 early before a double from Jeremy Conforti scored Bobby Nichols cut the lead in the half in the bottom of the first.

The score would remain the same until CMU plated two runs in the sixth on singles from Tommaso Giarola and Joseph Weatherford. Madonna tied the game in the top of the eighth, 3-3, before a two-run home run from Khalil Thrasher sealed the victory for the Eagles. 

Clayton Burke delivered a quality start on the mound. He allowed three earned runs on six hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Larry Riddle, Jr. picked up his first win of the season after pitching 1.2 innings of relief. He allowed just two base runners on a hit and a walk and recorded one strikeout.

Madonna’s Brandon Rice was saddled with the loss after allowing two earned runs on two hits and two walks in 2.2 innings of relief.

Conforti and Thrasher each had a multi-hit game for the Eagles, with two each. Sears, West, Giarola, Weatherford, and Logan Doody combined for five of Central’s nine hits.

Game 3 – May 17

KWU 16


The Eagles ended their season with a 16-7 loss in a rematch against No. 2-seeded Kansas Wesleyan in their elimination game Wednesday night.

CMU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning before Kansas Wesleyan plated three runs in the third and five in the fourth.

Trailing 8-2, Central trimmed the deficit to two with four runs in the bottom of the fourth, highlighted by a three-run home run to left field by Tanner Sears. 

However, KWU’s offense never slowed down, plating one run in the fifth, four in the seventh, and three in the ninth to eliminate Central and advance to the Opening Round Championship series.

Altogether, Central plated seven of its runs on 11 hits. Alan West led CMU with three hits in four at-bats with an RBI in his final game as an Eagle. Sears and Nichols each finished the game with two hits. Merced, Conforti, Weatherford, and Thrasher each had one hit. Sears drove in a team-high three runs.

Marcus Pritchard made the start for a battery of six pitchers in the Eagles’ final game. He allowed five earned runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts in three innings pitched. Alfred Ulloa, Alexander Billo, Larry Riddle Jr., Justin Guzman, and Ethan Grace also saw game action on the mound.

Kansas Wesleyan tallied 15 RBI, led by Kendall Foster with seven on a single, a double, and a home run. 

Central concludes its season with a 36-19 overall record and its seventh straight appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.


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