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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo
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Crossroads League baseball comes down to the wire

Three teams vie for first

As the baseball season is coming to a close, the Crossroads League Title is still up for grabs and the race for the conference crown has never been closer.

Crossroads League baseball has always been competitive, and with only two weeks left in the season, the regular season conference champion still has yet to be crowned. Taylor University sits in front with a record of 27-11 (20-4). One game behind them is Indiana Wesleyan University holding a record of 25-9 (19-5). In third, and four games out of first place, is Huntington University with a record of 21-14 (16-8).

Taylor’s season got off to a tumultuous start on the road, winning only three games out of their first 10. Their opening games came against some of the higher-ranked schools in NAIA, including No. 8 Cumberlands, No. 23 Reinhardt, and the No. 1 team in the nation, the Southeastern Fire.

“We are definitely more than blessed to be able to travel around the country, playing against really good teams in some nice weather in January and February,” sophomore outfielder Brayden Manning said. “Playing against these teams allows us to evaluate ourselves as a team to see what we need to improve on as well as developing everyone's roles on the team.”

After their less-than-stellar start, Taylor turned up the heat once they returned home, winning eight of the next 10 games, and they have not let off the gas. In fact, during their current stretch of games, Taylor has only lost two games in a row once. 

A big component of Taylor’s success has been pitching and defense, especially helped by sophomore starting pitcher Gabel Pentecost. Pentecost has been red hot on the mound, sporting a 2.45 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 55 innings of work.

“Coach Barber and I have worked together this past summer and fall to improve my breaking ball and that has been a big contributor to my success,” Pentecost said. “Our defense has also shined this year. There have been numerous times when they have taken hits away from the other team.”

IWU has also had an impressive season so far. While they are currently unranked, they are not a team to be taken for granted. Their ace pitcher, junior Drue Young, has been dominant on the mound this season. He has already taken home Crossroads League Pitcher of the Week honors two times. Young has a more than respectable ERA at 3.93 with 54 strikeouts and 55 innings pitched.

IWU also has nine players batting above .350 but one hitter stands out from the rest: junior infielder Darien Pugh. Pugh currently has a .385 batting average and an on-base percentage of .543.

“As of right now, IWU is the second place team in the conference and probably the most competitive in the conference,” Manning said.

Huntington University is also not to be slept on in the race for the Crossroads League title. The Foresters are on a hot streak, winning seven of their last 10 at the time of this writing. Sitting at 16-8 in conference play may not be the record the Foresters want,but they remain well within striking distance.

A key contributor for the Foresters is senior infielder Matt Wolff. Wolff is one of the top hitters on the team with a .306 batting average and 31 RBIs. He also has eight stolen bases while only being caught stealing once. 

Taylor University’s next game is April 18 at 3 p.m. where Taylor will travel to Marian University to take on the Knights. Taylor will then wrap up the season with a home series against the Maple Leafs of Goshen College on April 25 at 3 p.m.