BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Facing the top team in the conference and a top ten team in the country at the tail end of what's been a trying season, Avila (6-36, 4-29 KCAC) gave #6 Oklahoma Wesleyan (44-6, 29-4 KCAC) all it could handle, battling right to the end in the first two games of the series in what eventually became an Oklahoma Wesleyan sweep.
Facing one of the best offenses in the NAIA, Avila starter Briley Burrow delivered the best start of his Eagle career in Friday's series opener. OKWU got a little action on the base paths over the first few innings, but Jared Fry threw out a man stealing in the third to help Burrow through four scoreless.
OKWU starter Crosby Bringhurst was good through four as well, but Avila was the first to break through: with two outs in the fifth, Pat McGowan doubled to right and Reyes Willis singled him home for the game's first run. OKWU responded in the bottom half on a leadoff home run from Seth Delgado, but Burrow worked out of a jam in the sixth by striking Delgado out to keep the game deadlocked at one, and capping off a six-inning masterpiece for Burrow in his final appearance of the season.
The Oklahoma Wesleyan offense didn't stay dormant forever. The home standing Eagles scored once in the seventh – Kurt Trotter threw a man out at home to prevent further damage – and tacked on two more in the eighth to move ahead 4-1.
The visiting Eagles had struggled to hit OKWU reliever Billy Wall in the game now found themselves up against the metaphorical wall in the ninth inning. But Avila did not quit. Hunter Reed beat out a single before Trace Clinkenbeard smacked a two-run home run to the right field corner to bring the visitors within just one run. OKWU put closer Brendan Bell into the game and after he hit Christian Perez with a pitch to put the tying run aboard he got a favorable strike three call against McGowan to end the game, giving OKWU a tense 4-3 win.
Undeterred by the close loss, Avila came right back out and battled against the conference champs again on Saturday afternoon. Avila got off to a dream start in the first: Jack Virden singled and Zach Lintzen walked, setting up a three-run blast of a home run from Hunter Reed to put the visitors ahead 3-0. But the thunderous OKWU offense responded, capitalizing on some walks and errors to put together a five-run first, anchored by a three-run shot from Jesus Rojas.
Avila starter Brian Coffey settled in from there, keeping Oklahoma Wesleyan off the board for the next three frames and allowing his team to tie in the fourth when Virden singled in McGowan and Lintzen doubled in Willis.
OKWU outscored Avila 4-1 over the middle innings to surge ahead, but once again Avila answered back against the conference champs in the top of the eighth, taking advantage of a pair of errors and tying the game at nine apiece on an RBI single from Trotter. But five-hole hitter A'Darius Council doubled in a run and scored another in the bottom half and Avila could not answer against Bell in the ninth, and Oklahoma Wesleyan pulled out another tight victory, 12-9.
Avila acquitted itself incredibly well in the first two games of the weekend, but Oklahoma Wesleyan ultimately brought its big bats out for Saturday's series finale. Cody Muncy, one of the nation's leaders in long balls, homered twice in the first two innings to help his team out to a 4-0 lead.
Avila did not go away quietly: Andrew Mugica singled and scored in his final college game, Trotter drew a bases-loaded walk, and the Eagles took advantage of two more OKWU errors to strike for three in the third to pull back within 4-3. But Parker Tumelson tripled home two runs and scored on a single from Matt Martinez as part of a four-run third, and Oklahoma Wesleyan never looked back. Muncy and Isaac Wersland each added to their insane home run totals down the stretch and OKWU cruised to a 16-3 win to earn the series sweep. Justin Loman got the start and Dylan Carnahan made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in the final games of their Eagle careers.
A year after their season was cut off after just 21 games, the Avila baseball team got to play exactly twice that many games in 2021, battling through tons of adversity, new roles for many players, unexpected team tragedies, and the specter of the persisting pandemic to complete this campaign. The Eagles honored 11 seniors who have meant a ton to the program over the last few years during the final home series against York, and with a large influx of players possibly on the horizon, Avila baseball will look forward to brighter days, and much calmer waters, in 2022.