Small College Sports

Buena Vista tops Coe for American Rivers Conference baseball tournament title

Beavers earn automatic bid to NCAA tournament, No. 1-seed Kohawks await fate Monday

Coe's TJ Johnson (1) hits a single against Dubuque in game 4 of the American Rivers Conference tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Coe's TJ Johnson (1) hits a single against Dubuque in game 4 of the American Rivers Conference tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Peaking for the postseason is as cliché as it gets in sports.

For Buena Vista, the overly used phrase fits perfectly. The Beavers continued their successful stretch over the last month.

Second-seeded Buena Vista won its seventh straight game with a 5-1 victory over top-seeded and 12th-ranked Coe in the finals of the American Rivers Conference baseball tournament Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Beavers earned the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division III tournament.

“It’s so special,” said Coleman Roberts, one of three Beavers with two hits in the title game. “Being with all the guys and getting to celebrate with them, that’s what means a lot.”

Buena Vista Coach Steve Eddie said his team’s postseason status was in jeopardy after its last trip to Cedar Rapids, which ended in a three-game sweep by Coe. The Beavers turned things around and have won 13 of their last 14, capturing the program’s third conference tournament crown and first since 2014.

“Things started clicking,” Eddie said. “We started playing the game the right way, which helps. When things went badly, we didn’t let it affect us. They’ve really matured emotionally. That’s been the biggest key.”

They used various ways to win, whether it was hustle on the base paths, fundamentals at the plate or even a little luck. Pitching and defense have been the staples and manifested in three errorless tournament games and one run allowed in 27 innings.

“They’re hitting balls right at us and we’re making really good plays,” Eddie said. “It’s a culmination of everything. Just everything is going our way right now.”

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Buena Vista (25-17) scored all five of its runs by the fifth and before Coe could get on the board. Noah Paper led off the third with a double, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Peyton Renning’s sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. The early edge provided a boost.

“We’ve come into every game lately super confident in ourselves and our ability,” Roberts said. “It has helped us push. We’ve been confident at the plate, on the mound and our defense has been really good lately, so that’s what we needed.”

Like Friday’s game, the Beavers capitalized on some Kohawk miscues. Two errors contributed to Buena Vista’s three-run fourth for a 4-0 lead. Logan Mueller and Tyler Stoltze drove in runs with a sacrifice fly and single. The Beavers added an insurance run in the fifth when Joe Rock’s flyball plated Renning.

“It kind of played out exactly like a day ago,” Coe Coach Steve Cook said. “They played really well. They defended and out-hit us. I thought we pitched well enough for this one, too, but we gave them a few extra chances.”

Buena Vista tallied 12 hits and each batter had at least one. Bryce Rheault and Rock each had two hits apiece. Five different Beavers scored and no one had more than one RBI.

“Every win is not on one individual,” Roberts said. “It’s on everyone, so we all celebrate. That is the best with all of this.”

Coe snapped Buena Vista’s 41-inning scoreless streak with one in the sixth. Kevin DeLaney led off with a single and scored on Jacob Burns’ base hit.

The Kohawks (34-5) dominated the A-R-C with a 22-2 regular-season record, leading the league in pitching, batting and defense. They actually were ranked in the top five nationally in pitching and defense. Even with an impressive resume, they will rely on an at-large bid to extend their season.

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Cook said he won’t be comfortable until Coe is officially announced Monday during the selection show.

“You just don’t know,” Cook said. “There are too many unknown factors. You don’t want to leave it up to chance.

Cook added, “I do feel like we’ve got pieces here and a foundation that makes sense to be a regional team, but again that’s up to those who decide that stuff.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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