By HEATHER KENNEDY
OREM, Utah – The Houston Baptist team handed the Northern Colorado baseball team both of its losses in the 2012 Great West Conference Tournament, defeating the Bears 11-5 on Friday afternoon on the Utah Valley campus.
The Bears wrap up their season with a 27-33 overall record and fourth place in the Great West Tournament, while the Huskies (27-32) will continue on with a game against North Dakota at 6 pm to see which team will face Utah Valley for the championship.
Bears senior third baseman Tony Crudo did everything in his power to continue the season, going 4-for-4 at the plate for four of the team's nine hits. He was the only Bear with a multiple hit game, while six of the nine Huskies had multiple hits, scoring 11 runs on 17 hits. Fellow senior Adrian Schenk scored two of the team's runs of the game, getting hit once and getting an infield single in the ninth.
Sophomore Kevin Willman (1-3) pitched 3.2 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with one strike out in the start. Sophomores Josh Tinnon, Michael Wilkes and freshman Eian Raeber pitched the middle innings, while senior Nate Steinmetz finished his career with 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with one walk and one strikeout.
Senior Adam Hilker snapped his streak of 56 consecutive games of being on base, as well as ended a 22-game hitting streak. Senior Casey Coy also went hitless, snapping his 14-game hitting streak. The pair, however, leave as two of the best hitters to ever don the blue and gold as they, along with Crudo, all rank in the top 10 in school history in hits.
After a leadoff double by Josh Foust, he came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jake Gonzalez to give Houston Baptist the early 1-0 lead.
The Bears immediately answered in the top of the second inning. Freshman Jensen Park got the first hit of the game with a single to left and he stole second for his fifth stolen base of the season. With two outs, Crudo singled to left to plate Park and tie the game at 1-1.
HBU regained the lead with three singles alternated with a pair of sacrifice bunts for the 2-1 score. In the fifth, the Huskies scored three and extended their lead with six runs in the sixth for the 11-1 advantage.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Schenk got hit by his 14th pitch of the year and promptly stole second base. Crudo singled between third and short to score Schenk for an 11-2 score and kept the Bears from being eliminated via a run-ruled affair.
Freshman Taylor Anderson singled to start things in the top of the ninth and Schenk hit a high chopper over the pitcher's head. Crudo hit his fourth single of the day, going to left field to load the bases. Bryan Tibbitts grounded out to the second baseman, but got his first RBI of the tournament, plating Anderson. Junior Harrison Lambert doubled down the left field line to clear the bases, but it wasn't enough as the Bears fell 11-5.
Crudo led the Bears, hitting .529 in the four games during the tournament (9-for-17) with three doubles and five RBI, while fellow senior Kevin Hurd hit .500 (3-for-6) with three walks and two RBI. The Bears hit .372 over the four days with a .517 slugging percentage and .439 on-base percentage.
The Bears say good-bye to eight seniors in Coy, Crudo, Hilker, Hurd, Schenk, Steinmetz, Cameron Tallman and Joe Willman. Both Tallman and Willman pitched in earlier games during the tournament and end their careers ranked second and tied for fourth, respectively, on the career pitching appearances list, while Steinmetz leaves knotted with Willman after pitching in 61 career games.