WSU Baseball | Photo by Monica Brutto | The Wright State Guardian
After having its back against the wall in the Horizon League tournament and facing elimination, the Wright State University baseball team prevailed to win its third consecutive Horizon League title after winning three straight.
After beating the Golden Grizzlies five times in six meetings during the regular season, Oakland University defeated WSU in the first semi-final game 6-5. Following the loss, the Raiders would go on to eliminate Milwaukee in a do-or-die game by a final score of 2-1.
Entering the championship round Saturday, WSU would need to take down Oakland twice to secure the title.
The action started early, as the Golden Grizzlies claimed three runs in the second inning. The Raiders would quickly respond by scoring two in the third inning and one in the fourth inning to tie the game. Junior Jay Luikart launched a pair of home runs to help the Raiders tie the game.
After tying 3-3, Oakland struck in the fifth inning for three more runs, leading 6-3. Luikart would propel the Raiders once more, this time with a two-RBI triple. Later, senior Gehrig Anglin’s sacrifice fly helped the Raiders score.
WSU claimed four runs in the sixth inning to secure its first lead of the day, 7-6.
Luikart would finish the game going 3-6 with four RBIs and three runs.
“I think being disciplined and making it happen when I get a good pitch to drive,” Luikart stated on the clutch performance. “We trust each other and the work we put in.”
The Raiders would add insurance, as sophomore Andrew Patrick scored from second base on a wild pitch in the seventh inning.
Oakland would score two runs in the bottom of the seventh, drawing even with WSU at 8-8.
In the top of the ninth inning, Patrick would blast a solo home run to give the Raiders a 9-8 lead.
WSU would hang on for the 9-8 victory and force a winner-take-all championship game an hour after game one.
Senior Tristan Haught secured the win after throwing two and one-third innings to close out the win. Haught also started game two for the Raiders.
“The reason we decided to use [Haught] in game two was because he was still loose,” head coach Alex Sogard mentioned on staying with Haught between games one and two.
An hour after claiming game one, WSU was tasked with taking down Oakland once more to secure the Horizon League championship.
The Raiders would unleash early by scoring six runs in the second inning. Sophomore Boston Smith claimed the first RBI on a single to right field. Patrick would follow it up by demolishing a grand slam to left field to go up 5-0.
Junior Sammy Sass would close out the scoring in the second by recording an RBI double to claim a 6-0 lead.
WSU would follow up the second inning by adding seven more runs. Patrick started with a bases-loaded walk, and Anglin followed that up with a two-RBI single, followed by another double by Sass that scored one run.
Junior Julian Greenwell would close out the scoring in the third inning with a two-run homerun. After three innings, WSU held a 13-0 lead.
Patrick would go on to add one more RBI to the tally in the sixth inning on a double. Patrick finished both games one triple shy of the cycle and tallied seven RBIs on six hits between both games, earning Patrick the tournament Most Valuable Player award.
“It was a speechless moment. I’m really glad it happened,” Patrick mentioned after claiming a personal second league title. “Our main goal is to get a ring.”
Haught returned to the mound for game two, throwing seven scoreless innings and recording eight strikeouts. Haught would claim the win on the mound in both games of the championship round on Saturday.
“I did it a lot in little league. It has been six or seven years since I have done that,” Haught added after pitching in both games of the double header. “When you feel good, you feel good and you keep throwing.”
WSU secured a 14-0 victory, claiming its third consecutive conference title and sixth since 2015.
“Our guys knew if we had another shot on our field against them, we would take care of business,” coach Sogard added after the doubleheader victory. “If we won the first one, we knew we would be tough to stop in game two.”
Five Raiders were named to the All-Horizon League tournament team. Those players include Luikart, Haught, Greenwell and junior Luke Stofel. Patrick was MVP for the tournament.
NCAA regional tournament
WSU will play in the NCAA Regional tournament this Friday at 1 p.m., where the Raiders will take on Indiana State, who will be hosting in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The tournament will be a double-loss elimination, with the other two schools in the group being the Hawkeyes from Iowa University and the Tar Heels from the University of North Carolina.
WSU played Indiana State last season, winning two of the three matchups.
Readers can view the action on ESPN+ and listen on WWSU 106.9 FM.