Indiana Tech came ready for the postseason.
The Warriors' baseball team lost to Madonna in the only two matchups between the squads in the regular season but raised their game against the Crusaders in the best-of-3 WHAC Championship Series.
After falling behind early,top-seeded Indiana Tech silenced the Madonna bats the rest of the way Tuesday as relief pitcher Tanner Perkins threw a career-high 81/3 shutout innings in an 8-3 victory at Warrior Field that clinched the series and allowed the Warriors to raise their first WHAC Tournament trophy since 2013.
The Warriors won Game 1 on Monday 18-9.
“Feeling great, feeling great,” Indiana Tech coach Kip McWilliams said. “The guys worked so hard all year-round, coaching staff as well. So these guys deserve it, it feels really good.”
Williams' team never doubted it could beat the No. 2 seed Crusaders (35-20), despite the regular-season defeats, but it came ready to play against a team that celebrated a WHAC Tournament title in front of them on Warrior Field last season.
“Going into a game, especially with a team like Madonna, it's going to be a fight,” McWilliams said. “We've got to earn everything we get. And we did. Our guys played their tails off, Madonna played their tails off. They're still a good team, and we feel like we're a good team.”
The championship-clinching out came in dramatic fashion. With two outs and the bases empty, Madonna designated hitter Stephen Parker bounced a ground ball down the first-base line. It looked as if it would go foul, but the umpire signaled fair as the ball skipped over the bag into foul territory.
First baseman Jake DeFries gloved the ball several steps down the right-field line and flipped it back-handed in the direction of first. Perkins alertly covered first and kept his foot on the bag just long enough to corral the ball as it floated into his glove. Parker was out and a wild celebration began near first base.
“I thought it was foul because I saw my first baseman jump about 10 feet foul,” Perkins said. “I saw the umpire call it fair, so I ran over to first base and (DeFries) shovel-passed it back to me, and I made sure I stood on the bag and got the out. It was a crazy play.”
Perkins, a senior from Prairie Heights, had his best performance as a Warrior. He entered in the first inning in relief of starter Spenser McGhee with the Crusaders already up 3-1 and a runner on. He retired the side and proceeded to toss up zero after zero, striking out five and walking two while giving up just four hits. He threw 105 pitches and joked afterward that he couldn't feel his arm.
“I have to put it to the guys behind me, too,” said Perkins, who lowered his ERA to 0.97. “Without them, I wouldn't have been able to go the distance.”
The Warriors (39-14-1) turned three double plays in support of Perkins and gave him plenty of run support, tallying 12 hits and walking eight times. They scored one run in each of the first four innings to take a 4-3 lead and then broke the game open with a three-run sixth.
DeFries had the go-ahead single in the fourth and Javier Castaneda ripped a double to the gap in left-center that brought home two in the sixth, putting the Warriors comfortably ahead. Reese Olden went 3 for 5 with a double and three runs scored.
The game was Tech's 13th game in a row without a loss, as they've won 12 and tied once since April 22.
The Warriors will wait until Thursday to hear their draw for the NAIA National Championship tournament, which will be released at 5 p.m. They were already in the tournament even if they'd lost in the championship series, but securing some hardware makes the waiting much easier.