MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Texas Wesleyan's Henry Yates hit a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning to lift the 16th-ranked Rams to a 4-2 victory over No. 1 Faulkner here Saturday afternoon, sending the Eagles into a do-or-die situation in the Montgomery Bracket of the NAIA Baseball National Championships Opening Round at Harrison Field.
Faulkner starter Will Dismukes retired the first two Texas Wesleyan hitters in the 10th before walking Jake Howeth on a full count, bringing Yates to the plate. After a foul ball, the the Rams' left fielder lofted the fly ball toward the scoreboard in left. The Eagles' Esteban Paula was at the wall, and it looked as if his leap above the yellow padding had produced a spectacular catch. The ball, however, bounded out of his glove and over the fence for the game-deciding homer. "Esteban says it was in his glove at one time," said Faulkner head coach Patrick McCarthy, whose Eagles (48-11) had their 10-game winning streak snapped. "He was that close to making just an incredible catch."
Dismukes and Texas Wesleyan's Cory Bafidis were both exceptional, with Faulkner piecing together three flairs for base hits that produced a pair of runs in the first inning. The Eagles managed but three hits from there, only two of which came off of Bafidis, who at one time retired 12 straight hitters in the middle innings.
Dismukes allowed only one earned run, which came in the third. The Rams tied it with an unearned run in the fifth, courtesy of a wild two-error play. With one out and the Rams' Trevor Moon at first, Texas Wesleyan's David Kiriakos hit a ground ball to Eagles' third baseman Sergio Sanchez, who bobbled the ball before throwing it past first baseman Cayleb Coker, Right fielder David Bishop was backing up the play, but his throw to second to try and cut down Kiriakos was wild as well. Paula then fielded the ball in left, and his throw to the plate was just late as Moon slid around the tag of Faulkner catcher Zak Colby to deadlock the game at 2-2. The two starters were dominant from there. Bafidis was pulled after eight innings, Faulkner had a chance to end it in the bottom of the ninth against Texas Wesleyan closer Patrick Stanley. With runners at first and second and one out Dauris Holguin was called out on bang-bang play on a slow grounder to Rams' second baseman Joel Rickman. The runners advanced to second and third, only to be stranded when Paula bounced out to the pitcher to end the threat, setting the stage for Yates' heroics in the 10th.
Dismukes allowed seven hits in falling to 11-2 on the season. He struck out 12 batters in his sparkling performance, his last at Harrison Field. Sanchez and Bishop each had hits and RBIs in the opening inning, producing Faulkner's only runs of the game.
"Will pitched great and it was tough the way that one played out,' McCarthy said. "In a game like that, many times it's one at-bat late in the game that will decide it. And that was the case here today. Their guy was really good and we just never could figure him out.
"Now we'll find out what we're made of with our backs to the wall. We know it will be a tall task, but we'll take it inning-by-inning from here. It's all you can do."
Faulkner plays Saturday afternoon at 3 against Indiana Tech. A victory there would put the Eagles into the championship round, where it would need to beat Texas Wesleyan twice to win the tournament. The first game would be Saturday night at 7, with a Faulkner victory forcing a deciding game Monday afternoon at 1.