MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team had three costly errors and stranded nine base runners as the No. 5 seed Cougars fell 7-4 to No. 4 seed Indiana Institute of Technology in the first game of the Montgomery Bracket of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round at Faulkner University's Harrison Field on Thursday afternoon.
MVNU (32-16) got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore outfielder Jake Dickerson had a two-out RBI double to deep left to put the Cougars on top 1-0.
The Warriors of Indiana Tech took advantage of an error with two outs to score a pair of runs in the top of the second inning to take a 2-1 lead, but an RBI single by MVNU sophomore second baseman Sterling Harpst in the bottom of the second inning knotted the score at 2-2.
The score remained that way until the top of the fourth inning when the Warriors pushed across three runs to take a 5-2 lead. A sacrifice fly by Jake Owens plated the first run, Tyler Denniston added an RBI single, and Jacob Dunnichay had a run-scoring ground out to stake Indiana Tech to the three-run lead.
A hit batsman, a stolen base, a walk, and an error helped contribute to two more runs for the Warriors in the top of the fifth inning as their lead grew to 7-2. Denniston also had his second RBI single of the game in the frame.
After stranding two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cougars managed to plate a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to close the gap to 7-4. Junior first baseman Seth Eller had a triple to drive in one run, and freshman shortstop Riley Swanson had an RBI single to score the other.
MVNU got out of a couple of jams defensively in the eighth and ninth innings as Indiana Tech stranded five base runners in those two frames combined as the deficit remained at three runs. However, the Cougars could get no closer as their final five batters of the game were retired in order.
Junior right-hander Mike Kochheiser (6-4) started and took the loss for MVNU as he gave up 10 hits, one walk, and seven runs (only four earned) over 4.1 innings with three strikeouts. Freshman right-hander Roberto Cediel followed with 2.2 scoreless innings as he allowed just two hits and a walk, while freshman lefty Logan Perkins and freshman right-hander Lucas Daugherty each tossed a scoreless inning of relief to give the Cougars a chance to come back.
Aaron Lewellyn (4-3) went the distance on the mound for Indiana Tech as he scattered 13 hits and four runs over nine innings with one strikeout and no walks to pick up the victory.
Offensively, Eller, Dickerson, Swanson, junior outfielder Sean Fleming, and sophomore catcher Clint Spencer all had two hits apiece for MVNU with Dickerson driving in a pair of runs and Fleming scoring twice.
Ray Calloway led the 15-hit attack for the Warriors with three hits, while Denniston had two hits and four RBI. Eric Wald, Ignatius Mackenzie, and Owens each had two hits apiece for Indiana Tech, too.
"We got on the board early in the first couple of innings," said MVNU coach Keith Veale. "I thought Mike was throwing well, but we broke down on a couple of plays defensively that opened the door for them. At this stage of the year, teams are going to make you pay for your mistakes. A couple of free bases to lead off their fifth inning cost us a couple more runs. It was a hole we couldn't climb out of. We moved it pretty well most of the game, but when we started to rally we would give up an at bat and we lost opportunities to get back in the game."
"It's a great venue for our guys to compete in," added Veale about the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. "You have to play at a high level or you get beat. Little things turn into big things in a hurry."
The Cougars will return to action on Friday at noon ET in the losers' bracket when they will take on No. 3 seed Georgetown (Ky.) College, who fell 9-1 to No. 2 seed Texas Wesleyan University on Thursday afternoon. The Tigers are ranked No. 21 in the latest NAIA poll. The winner of that game would advance to an 8 p.m. ET game on Friday against Indiana Tech, who fell 16-2 to top-seeded Faulkner in the final game on Thursday.