MASON, Ohio—Little boy dreams came true Sat., May 28, and Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) got the NCCAA baseball national championship with an 8-4 walk-off win over Bethesda, Calif., University.
Hunter Heath ripped a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to give OBU an 8-4 win and the NCCAA National Championship.
“It’s amazement,” said Head Coach Bobby Cox. “To have it end in that fashion. Coach (Chris) Cox and I were sitting there talking about how many times in the backyard, bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth as a little kid playing whiffle ball and you hit that home run and to actually see that happen in that moment. That snapshot will freeze in time and last forever.”
“I stayed up pretty late last night just picturing that chance if I was to get an (at-bat) like this and something I’ve been waiting for my entire life. It’s pretty awesome,” said Heath. “Just a special, special moment I will never forget. I was honestly just looking for a good pitch to hit. I wasn’t trying to do too much with it. It was a curve ball and it went out.”
For OBU, it is the fifth National Christian College Athletic Association national championship this season. It is the first national title of any kind for Hall of Fame coach Bobby Cox in his 31-year coaching career.
Heath put an end to an already dramatic championship game, depositing the first pitch of the at-bat over the fence in right center field. For Heath, the homer gave him nine RBI in the last two games alone. He and Felipe Gonzalez had five RBI in the semifinal game.
The Bison broke a scoreless tie in the third inning. Cody Ziegler singled and pinch runner Austin Cooper scored on a double by Kevin Olmeda. Dustyn Cook then singled in Olmeda for a 2-0 lead.
That lead stood until the fifth when the Flames snapped Nathan Thompson’s string of hitless innings at 15 with a double to go with four walks to make it a 2-2 game.
Bethesda took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on a home run, but OBU got the answer on a two-run home run by Brandon Cuddy. Cuddy’s round-tripper was his 13th this season, making he and Ryan Joyce co-leaders on the team in home runs.
Thompson left the game after seven innings, striking out seven batters to raise his final season total to a team-best 126. That number ranks third in the single season strikeout list at OBU behind Kelvin Rivas and Julian Merryweather.
The Flames tied the score in the eighth, but that was all they would get off reliever Carson McPherson, who fanned two batters in two innings to get the win and improve to 7-3. OBU left the bases loaded in the eighth, but McPherson got the Flames in order in the top of the ninth.
Kyle Abblitt and Ziegler got one-out singles in the ninth, and Olmeda walked to load the bases. After a strikeout set the stage, Heath delivered the two-out knockout punch.
OBU had nine hits in the game, including three by Heath and two by Ziegler. Cook, Cuddy, Abblitt and Olmeda had championship game hits as well.
Heath was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, and Joyce was named to the All-Tournament team. Heath finished the six-game World Series with 12 RBI and a .840 slugging percentage. Joyce batted a team-best .500 with 12 hits and five RBI.
The Bison send out their seniors with a championship and winners of their final college game. That class includes Cuddy, Joyce, Gonzalez, Thompson, Trevor Ezell, Chad Bennett, Mike Gould, Brad Adams and Thaddaeus Rhoades.
OBU ends the season with a 15-game win streak and a 43-15 final record.
“I can’t say enough about our coaching staff,” Cox said. “Chris Cox and Cody Painter. This couldn’t have happened without them. They did the unseen and thankless things and put that team together. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”