After a deflating loss to Northwest Florida State, the Pirates found themselves in a 5 team single elimination tournament the rest of the way. And quite frankly, the bracket was still set up nicely for the Pirates, with a 4 game winning streak away from a National Title. However, standing in their way was top ranked Iowa Western, winner of three of the past five national championships, and carrying a record of 54-5 into the game. However, the game was over before it began, as the Pirates ran roughshod over the Rievers en route to a 14-2 mercy rule win, to put the Pirates in the National Semi-Final game.
The first coin flip loss of the tournament allowed the Pirates the opportunity to get on the board first. And get on the board first they did, as Chatt Valley plated 5 runs in the top half of the first frame, sending 8 batters to the plate, as back to back singles by Nolan Greckel and Kenny Ford, followed by a walk to Tyler Lynn to load the bases, led to Jake Maziar’s bases clearing double to give CV the early 3-0 lead. Not quite done, Brandon Whiteford, 2 batters later, hammered a 2 run homer to right field to give starter Bryce Conley all of the runs he would need with a 5-0 lead.
Bryce’s start was interesting, if anything. Completely dominant in terms of hits allowed and bad contact, but completely scary as hell for Coach Thomas in terms of 3 ball counts and walks. After 2 quick outs in the first, he walked the bases loaded before ending the inning on a strike out in a 3-2 count.
A lead off walk by Conley in the second was followed by back to back punchouts. However, 3 consecutive walks gave IWC their first run of the game. But just like before, Conley finished the inning and kept the damage at only 1 run.
Conley settled in after the third, and after allowing back to back one out singles, the Reiv’s scratched for another run on an infield error to squeeze back within 3, down 5-2
The Pirate offense answered immediately with 3 runs as Tyler Lynn and Maziar reached to start the inning. With one out, Whiteford and Will Campbell had back to back RBI singles, with Whitey later scoring on a passed ball to push the Pirate lead to 8-2.
There would be nothing doing for the Iowa Western offense the rest of the way, as Conley gained his command and allowed only one more hit the rest of the way. On the day, Bryce tossed 5 complete innings, allowing 2 runs, (1 earned) on 3 hits, 5 strikeouts, and a staggering 8 walks and one hit by pitch.
Nonetheless it was good enough, as the Pirate offense continued to do its job, adding 2 more runs in the fourth on yet another Brandon Whiteford 2 run single and 4 more in the 5th to finish the scoring off. With Hunter Webb, Nolan Greckel reaching to start the inning, Kenny Ford drove in Webb, Jake Maziar reached on an error scoring Greckel and Ryan Hagan’s mammoth blast put the Pirates up 14-2 as Conley finished things off in the bottom half.
The win sent the Pirates to the national semifinal game against Walters State, another offensive powerhouse, the next evening. The win put the Pirates at 43-16 on the year and guaranteed them of a Final Four piece of hardware.