TERRE HAUTE —
It's a wonderful dilemma Dallas Baptist baseball coach Dan Heefner finds himself in.
His Patriots advanced to today's Missouri Valley Conference baseball championship game with a 9-4 victory over Missouri State. In their first year in the league as a baseball-only member, Dallas Baptist will be on the big stage.
The problem? It took two games on Friday to get there. Missouri State defeated Dallas Baptist 3-2 in Friday's first game which neccessitated an immediate rematch between the Patriots and Bears.
The doubleheader Dallas Baptist was hoping to avoid depleted the Patriots' pitching staff. That will be music to the ears of their opponent at 8 p.m. tonight -- Illinois State -- who has no such concerns after riding a 3-0 hot streak into the title game.
If it were just tournament implications, it would be enough of a pickle for the Patriots. Add on to that Dallas Baptist's NCAA at-large hopes -- the Patriots are currently 30th in RPI -- and it makes it an interesting call for Heefner as to how he handles his pitching.
"It affected things big-time to play the extra game. We'll have to talk as a staff what we do. I think we're in a good position to be an at-large team now, but we need to think about our pitching," Heefner said.
Cy Sneed, Dallas Baptist's starter in its tournament opener, would seem to be the choice to start tonight, but Heefner was non-commital.
"Cy is a great pitcher and he has a future in the game, so you want to be careful and protect him," said Heefner, who wouldn't rule out a "staff day" where several pitchers are used tonight.
Friday's doubleheader is a side effect of the thunderstorm that delayed Dallas Baptist's game against Bradley on Wednesday night. Since the postponed DBU-Bradley game had to be resumed Thursday, it pushed the scheduled 7:30 p.m. game on Thursday to 12:30 p.m. Friday. The originally scheduled "if necessary" game, which was supposed to be a Friday one-off, became part of a twinbill.
That's the accounting part of it, but the truth is that the Patriots had a chance to put a stake in the Bears in the opener, but couldn't quite do it.
Missouri State led 3-1 entering Dallas Baptist's ninth inning, but the Patriots showed two-out spunk to tie it against tough Missouri State reliever Jake Powers.
Justin Wall had singled to lead off the inning, followed by a David Martinelli single, but a double play seemed to take pressure off the Bears. Not so. Camden Duzenack doubled off the right field wall to score Wall to make it 3-2.
Dallas Baptist's No. 9 hitter -- Nash Knight -- then worked a full count against Powers. He slapped the payoff pitch to right and Duzenack beat the throw home to tie the game.
Undaunted, Missouri State counter-punched. Trey Hair's RBI single in the 10th broke the deadlock. He advanced to third on the play after Dallas Baptist couldn't secure the ball in the infield and scored on a wild pitch.
The rematch, the ninth game between the two teams this season, was over quickly. Low on pitching, Missouri State (26-31) started Sam Perez -- normally a reliever -- for the first time in his career.
The sophomore retired Dallas Baptist's first batter, but then the nightmare ensued. The Patriots hit seven consecutive singles off of Perez, and by the time he was relieved by Matt Hall, Dallas Baptist had a 4-0 advantage.
The Patriots (39-19) would ultimately notch eight base hits in succession. Perez lasted just a third of an inning and was responsible for all seven runs scored by Dallas Baptist.
"With the way the last game ended, I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of battling back. We had deflated a little bit, but to see our guys jump back at it gave us a charge," Heefner said.
Many of the Patriots' hits were of the bloop variety. It was frustrating for the Bears, but coach Keith Guttin wasn't making any excuses.
"You have to make pitches and he didn't make them. You have to find a way out, whether you're the first guy or the second guy. You have to shut it down. Credit to Dallas Baptist," Guttin said.
Missouri State's seven-run deficit proved too much to overcome. The Bears cut the Patriots' lead to 7-3, but got no closer.
One thing Dallas Baptist has going for it is a solid lineup that has no obvious weak spots. Every Dallas Baptist starter had a base hit in the two games on Friday except Drew Turbin, who has made his presence felt at other points in the tournament.
"From day one in practice, Coach Heef has said everyone will crush baseballs. We just carried that on through the whole season. Whether we're hitting one, four or nine, it doesn't matter, we look for a pitch to drive," DBU shortstop Camden Duzenack said.
Duzenack, who is hitting .467 in the tournament, has faith the Patriots' pitching will hold up too ... no matter what plan Heefner comes up with for tonight's title game.
"We went into this tournament knowing we had the best pitching staff out there. I don't think we have too much to worry about there," Duzenack said.
MISSOURI STATE (AB-R-H-BI) -- Massenberg lf 4-2-1-0, Kay lf 0-0-0-0, Hawkins ss 3-0-0-0, Matheny cf 1-0-0-0, Becker 3b 4-0-1-1, Drake rf 2-0-0-1, Cheray c 4-1-0-0, Johnson 1b 3-1-0-0, Graham dh 3-0-1-0, Jefferson ph 0-0-0-0, Hair ph 1-1-1-1, Meyer 2b 5-0-1-1. TOTALS 30-5-5-4.
DALLAS BAPTIST (AB-R-H-BI) -- Turbin 2b 4-0-0-0, Wesolowski 1b 5-0-0-0, Salters c 4-0-0-0, Listi cf 5-0-1-0, Wall lf 4-2-1-0, Martinelli 4-0-2-0, Talamantes dh 2-0-0-1, Duzenack ss 4-1-2-1, Knight 3b 4-0-2-1. TOTALS 36-3-8-3.
E -- Meyer; Turbin, Salters. DP -- MSU 2. LOB -- MSU 10, DBU 8. 2B -- Listi, Duzenack. S -- Hawkins 2, Johnson; Talamantes. SB -- Massenberg 2, Matheny.
Powers (W, 4-5)=2 1/3=4=2=2=1=1
Shaw (L, 4-4)=1=1=2=0=1=0
WP -- Harris, Powers; Stutzman, Shaw. T -- 2:58.
DALLAS BAPTIST (AB-R-H-BI) -- Turbin 2b 5-0-0-1, Wesolowski 1b 5-1-2-0, Salters c 4-1-2-0, Listi cf 5-1-1-1, Wall lf 4-1-3-1, Martinelli rf 4-1-1-0, Duzenack ss 3-2-1-2, Voelker dh 0-0-0-0, Alexander dh 4-2-2-2, Knight 3b 4-0-1-2. TOTALS 38-9-13-9.
MISSOURI STATE (AB-R-H-BI) -- Massenberg lf 4-0-1-0, Hawkins ss 5-0-1-0, Matheny cf 5-1-2-0, Becker 3b 4-0-1-0, Drake rf 3-1-1-1, E. Cheray c 3-1-1-2, Hair dh 3-1-0-0, Johnson 1b 4-0-1-0, Meyer 2b 4-0-1-1. TOTALS 35-4-9-4.
DP -- MSU 1. LOB -- DBU 7, MSU 9. 2B -- Wall (10), Knight (10); Hawkins (6). HR -- Alexander (4); Cheray (6). SB -- Duzenack (4); Drake (6). CS -- Wall (1).
Smith (W, 3-2)=5 2/3=4=3=3=4=2
Perez (L, 3-1)=1/3=7=7=7=0=0
HBP -- by Hall (Salters), by Burgess (Martinelli). T -- 2:44.