Austin Cross (JR/Montgomery, Texas) is in his fourth season as a member of Kansas Wesleyan’s baseball program and has no doubts where this team ranks among the four that he’s been part of.
“This is by far the most talented team we’ve had since I got here,” he said Tuesday following the Coyotes’ 19-4 seven-inning Kansas Conference rout of York at Dean Evans Stadium. “On top of that the team that made the conference tournament two years ago was close, but I think this this team might be a little bit closer. We’re all playing for each other.”
And playing very well. The victory was their fifth in a row, ninth in their last 10 games, raised their record to 19-10 overall and kept them in second place in the KCAC standings with a 12-4 record.
Tyler Triano (SO/Hollister, Calif.) pitched five-plus innings and KWU had 19 hits, led by catcher Josh Sandoval (SR/Glendale, Ariz.) who had four hits and drove in five runs – four on his second grand slam in eight days. Dalton Bishop (JR/Colorado Springs, Colo.) had three hits, including a two-run homer.
“We’ve got guys who can hit all over the field, we’ve got power throughout the lineup, we’ve got 12 guys who can hit in our lineup any given day,” said Cross, the team’s right fielder. “And we’ve got some amazing arms on the mound.”
“The guys are playing well,” coach Bill Neale said. “We’re starting to click a little bit more and we’re just trying to carry this momentum.”
The Coyotes took control early and often Tuesday. After going down in order in the bottom of the first inning they exploded for nine runs on 10 hits in the second. Thirteen batters went to the plate, the first six getting hits before an out was recorded.
Sandoval and Bishop reached on infield singles and Cross’ bunt single loaded the bases. Tyler Latham (JR/Wichita Falls, Texas) drove in the first two runs with a single, Jakeub Schneid reached on another bunt single and Sisipako Vehikite (JR/Santa Clara, Calif.)’s double scored Cross and Latham making it 4-0.
William Dryburgh (SO/St. Joseph, Mo.)’s sacrifice fly scored Scheid and Haydn Brown (SR/Gardnerville, Nev.)’s single scored Vehikite. Lopez singled sending Brown to third, who then stole home as Lopez was thrown out trying to steal second. Sandoval followed with his second single of the inning and scored on Bishop’s homer to right.
Vehikite’s double scored Scheid and Brown’s single scored Vehikite in the third inning giving the Coyotes an 11-0 advantage. Lopez singled in Dryburgh and Sandoval’s brought in Brown in the fifth to increase the lead to 13-2.
The Coyotes added six runs on five hits in the sixth as 11 batters went to the plate. Cross singled and Latham reached on a bunt single. Cross stole third and scored the catcher’s throwing error to third. With two outs Dryburgh reached on an infield single, and Brown walked to load the bases. Lopez walked forcing in the second run of the inning and Sandoval followed with his grand slam down the right field line.
“Sandy’s really hot, he’s been crushing the ball and he’s doing great behind the plate,” Cross said. “He’s controlling the pitchers well and has a really good grip on the pitching staff.”
Bishop had three hits and Brown, Lopez, Cross, Latham, Scheid and Vehikite two each.
Tyler Triano (3-1) pitched 5.2 innings allowing four runs on seven hits with four strikeouts, five walks and two hit batters. Tyler Davis (FR/The Woodlands, Texas) pitched the final 1.1 innings and didn’t allow a hit. The game was called after seven innings because of the run-rule.
“(Triano) didn’t have his best stuff but only gave up four runs and gave us a chance to win,” Neale said. “That’s what our pitchers have been doing this year.”
The Coyotes play a three-game series against Saint Mary Thursday and Saturday in Leavenworth. Thursday’s single game starts at 2 p.m. and Saturday’s doubleheader at 1 p.m.
“We know where we are (in the standings), we’re excited and we’re going to try to keep this momentum going,” Neale said. “We’ve just got to keep winning the next game in front of us, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re going to try and go win on Thursday against Saint Mary.”