Rio Grande Sports Information
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - The University of Rio Grande baseball team's hopes for a third straight conference tournament title and an automatic berth in the NAIA national tournament were snuffed out in gut-wrenching fashion on Monday afternoon.
Jacob Reimold's second home run of the day - a two-out, two-run ninth inning blast - snapped a 6-6 tie and lifted fifth-seeded West Virginia University-Tech to an 8-6 victory over the RedStorm in a River States Conference Tournament elimination game at VA Memorial Stadium.
The Golden Bears improved to 30-27 with the victory and advanced to Tuesday's title game against No. 4 seed Midway, which eliminated second-seeded Indiana University Southeast in Monday night's final game.
Earlier in the day, IU-Southeast rallied to score nine times in the bottom of the eighth inning to oust No. 1 seed Point Park.
Rio Grande, which was seeded third in the tourney bracket, slipped to 34-19-1 and now clings to a faint hope of receiving an at-large bid to the national tourney. The 45-team field for the national tournament will be announced Thursday, at 4 p.m., in an online broadcast at www.naianetwork.com.
The RedStorm rallied from a 1-0 first inning deficit in Monday's game, tying the contest with a single run in the third and grabbing a 5-1 advantage after pushing across four markers in the fourth inning.
Rio tied the game in the third when junior Ty Warnimont (Rio Grande, OH) led off with a walk and eventually scored on an infield hit by senior Daryin Lewis (Circleville, OH).
The RedStorm scored the go-ahead run in the fourth on a throwing error, while senior Luis Jimenez (Salinas, Puerto Rico) followed with a three-run home run which pushed the lead to 5-1.
WVU-Tech began the road back in the fifth on a run-scoring single in the fifth by Doug Prather and closed the gap to 5-4 in the sixth inning on Reimold's first homer of the day and a run-scoring double by Chris Davidson.
The Golden Bears finished the comeback - and regained the lead - in the seventh inning thanks to a sacrifice fly by Wyatt Belinda and an RBI single by Reimold, but Rio knotted the score at 6-6 and set up the dramatic finish thanks to a two-out RBI double by junior Cody Blackburn (Amanda, OH) in the home half of the frame.
The RedStorm actually had a chance to regain the lead later in the seventh after loading the bases following Blackburn's game-tying double, but Dalton Grisell - the third of what would be six pitchers for Tech - coaxed an inning-ending foulout to first from sophomore Juan Cruz (Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico) to end the threat.
Rio also put a runner at third in the home eighth when senior Logan Walters (Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada) reached on a one-out, two-base throwing error and moved to third on a groundout, but Tech reliever Garrett Vandeventer retired Lewis on a groundout to third.
The Golden Bears appeared to be headed for a quiet ninth inning after Rio junior reliever Dalton Wilburn (Ashville, OH) retired each of the first two batters routinely, but Belinda worked a two-out walk and Reimold followed by hammering a 2-0 pitch which just cleared the fence in right-center to give Tech the lead for good.
The RedStorm loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth thanks to consecutive one-out walks to junior Kameron Herring (Heath, OH) and Blackburn and a subsequent bloop single to right by senior Dan Crozier (Ballston Spa, N.Y.), but the rally - and the game - ended moments later when Tech's Jared Jobst got Cruz to bounce into a 4-6-3 double-play.
Jimenez finished 3-for-5, while Flores and Blackburn both had doubles in a losing cause for Rio Grande. Wilburn (1-1) suffered the loss, allowing two hits and two runs over two innings.
Reimold had three hits and four RBI for the Golden Bears, while Prather, Trevor Lam and Davidson all had two hits each. Prather's hits included a triple, while Davidson had a double.
Vandeventer earned his second win in five decisions for Tech, while Jobst earned his first save of the season.