Determined to make a late-season run toward the top half of the conference, Northwest Missouri State's baseball team showed no signs of being able to pull that off in game one of Wednesday's doubleheader with Washburn.
The Bearcats totaled a meager two hits and trailed from the second inning on in a 7-2 loss to the 14th-place Ichabods.
With their season at a breaking point, Northwest came back strong in game two and won 9-0 to salvage a split of the doubleheader and end a six-game losing skid.
Taking three of four from Washburn on the season, the Bearcats moved to 10-22 overall and 8-19 in the MIAA. They remain in 11th place, five games back of Southwest Baptist who the Bearcats play this weekend in Bolivar.
"I'm awfully proud of the guys for persevering," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Darin Loe. "The first half of the season was rough on them. We talked the other day about really focusing on the next 20 ball games and the guys did a great job with that. We played with high energy in the second game and started swinging the bats pretty well. Obviously, we would've liked to take two today, but their first pitcher was pretty tough."
Mired in a week-long slump, Northwest got the bats going early in game two, scoring four times in the second inning. The Bearcats added a pair of fourth inning runs and three more in the seventh, finishing with their highest total in seven games.
The Bearcats 1-2-3 hitters—Ryan Abernathy, Brandon Huske and Paul Johnson—combined for nine of the team's 14 hits.
Abernathy went 4-for-5 and hit his first home run of the season in the fourth inning. Johnson had three hits and drove in two runs.
Hitting out of the No. 6 hole, Eric McGlauflin belted his team-leading fifth homer of the year—a two-run shot in the second—and finished with three RBIs.
"We were just swinging relaxed," said Loe. "I thought in the last few weeks, every swing they took was trying to make up for the last 25 games. We just talked as a group about letting that go and moving forward and looking forward instead of behind. Guys took that to heart and made that happen today."
Staked to an early lead, freshman starter Rob Henrichs dominated the Ichabods (6-20, 6-19) over seven innings to pick up his first career win.
He gave up only two hits—one in his final six innings—struck out seven and walked two.
After stranding the bases loaded in the first, Washburn never mounted a threat against Henrichs again.
Page 2 of 2 - "He really stepped up and gave us what we needed," said Loe. "Last week he wasn't quite as sharp, but he bounced back."
Tyler Barth worked around two hits to pitch a scoreless eighth and Nathaniel Horton stuck out two in the ninth to close out the win.
Washburn starter AJ Green (0-4) took the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Game 1: Washburn 7, Northwest 2
Northwest jumped ahead 1-0 in the first, but things quickly eroded on the Bearcats.
Washburn put up four second inning runs and two in the third to lead 6-1. The Bearcats lacked the offense needed for a comeback, scoring just one more run in the fifth inning.
Washburn starter Taylor Gentry (2-0) tossed a complete-game, two-hitter and allowed just one earned run. His counterpart Austin Warren (1-5) lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
"I thought Austin threw pretty well," said Loe. "They had some balls that found holes. He wasn't throwing poorly. He's a contact pitcher and unfortunately for him today, that contact found some holes."
Washurn shortstop Dakota Kell hit a two-run homer off Warren in the second and a two-run double in the third.
Lead-off man Parker Gibson drove in Washburn's other two second inning runs with a two-out single. A sacrifice bunt by Richard Swan in the fifth plated Washburn's seventh and final run.
Northwest's relief corps of Chase Anderson and Brian Schmiedt held Washburn to one run over the final 4 2/3 innings. They combined for six strikeouts.
The Bearcats scored their first run on a passed ball that got Ryan Abernathy home from third. He walked to lead off the game, swiped second and then third.
In the fifth, a sacrifice fly from Abernathy scored Johnson to make it 7-2.
Neither team had a hit in the sixth or seventh innings.
Washburn's victory ended a seven-game losing skid.