By Tyler Oehmen
With a runner on first, Clarke senior southpaw Brian McCabe forced Ashford University shortstop R.J. Roberts into grounding to Crusader shortstop Arsenio Watlington, who dished the easy grounder over to second for the final out. As Clarke second baseman Matt Bedell closed his glove to catch the ball, he clinched the Crusaders' 24th win of the season – a new school record.
In only his first season at the helm, Dan Spain has taken an 11-31 squad from 2012 and last place finisher in the MCC, to a record-setting team with a chance for a first place finish.
"I'm just proud of the team and my coaching staff," said Spain. "We have worked so hard this year and this group truly deserves all the success it has had. Breaking the record was not a part of our goals this year, winning a conference championship and going to the national tournament is really what we are working towards."
Coach Spain is especially proud of the impact this team will have on the future of Clarke baseball.
"Breaking the win record ensures that this team is going to leave an imprint on this program," Spain continued. "They have raised the bar for the future and hopefully they can look back some day and say 'we started that.'"
Clarke jumped on top right away in the second game of a doubleheader against Ashford turning a leadoff double by third baseman Luis Reyes into a 1-0 first inning lead after a pair of ground outs from Nick Woltkamp and Sergio Cruz, who homered in his last at-bat during Game 1 and now knocked in Reyes.
Woltkamp would add a run in the fourth with the help of two Ashford errors, a stolen base and a wild pitch while standing on third base.
In the sixth, Clarke would put the game out of reach with a combination of timely hitting, Ashford pitching control issues and sloppy defense. Reyes and Woltkamp would reach base with back-to-back hit by pitches and Cruz, serving as DH, would follow up with a walk to load the bases. Catcher Jose Stelluti would capitalize on the opportunity by singling through the left side. Johnny Kruick and Nico Piscopo would both reach base and get an RBI, and Kruick would later score on an error.
McCabe took a moment to reflect on the historic moment for Clarke that he is now forever linked to.
"I was just focusing on finishing the game," said McCabe. "Looking back, I've been through so much here in four years and it's special that I was able to get that out."
Clarke took the nightcap, 6-3.
Although he appreciated the run support, Clarke starter Chris Brewer would not need it. Brewer dealt for six innings, freezing Ashford hitters and striking out seven. Brewer flirted with disaster on a few occasions, but managed to brilliantly pitch himself out of trouble by hitting the corners of the plate with runners on base. Brewer would strand eight runners, including three with the bases loaded in the sixth.
In a 5-2 setback in game Game 1, Seth Wieman started the solid pitching day by the Crusaders by pitching 6.2 innings and allowing only one earned run. He would not get the win, however, as some shaky defense hurt the squad. Wieman was helped out by Cruz, who hit a game-tying lead-off home run in the sixth inning.
Clarke will return to action on Thursday for a 2 p.m. MCC twin bill with Viterbo University. The Crusaders will wrap up regular-season play at home on Friday, hosting league rival St. Ambrose University at 5 p.m.