College of the Ozarks Bobcats baseball closed out their season on Sunday, going 1-2 in the A.I.I. Conference Tournament hosted by Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, GA.
Prior to the opening of the tournament, the Association of Independent Institutions hosted a banquet for the teams and named the A.I.I. Conference All-Tournament Teams. College of the Ozarks was well represented, as Dylan Heitz was named to the All-A.I.I. First Team, while Collan Thrasher, Jesse Fisher and Austin Schweiss were named to the All-A.I.I. Second Team. Schweiss and Fisher were also honored as Champions of Character award winners.
The Bobcats faced some tough competition in the weekend tournament, opening up on Saturday morning with a 6-5 win over Fisher College (Mass.). The Fisher Falcons entered the tournament with a 26-22 record and put up 5 runs on 9 hits and 2 errors. Bobcat sophomore Collan Thrasher, coming off a great regular season, tossed a complete 9-inning game, which included six strikeouts. The Bobcats scored 6 runs on 8 hits, with Jacob Karlson contributing a double and J.D. Chadwell and J.D. Payne each providing a homerun. The two teams were knotted up at 5-5 headed into the bottom of the eighth, when Chadwell opened the bottom half with a walk, Schweiss put down a sacrifice bunt, Fisher reached on an error, and Tyler Whiteis hit a sacrifice fly to score Chadwell for the go-ahead run. After hitting the lead-off batter with a pitch in the ninth, Thrasher settled in and gathered three outs on a sacrifice bunt, a groundout, and a game-ending strikeout to collect his ninth win of the season.
Saturday morning’s win placed the Bobcats in the feature game of the evening against #1 seeded (and nationally ranked #14) Georgia Gwinnett. The Grizzlies boasted a 35-19 record entering the game, and they placed in the Top 10 across the country in numerous statistics, including stolen bases, total runs scored, and total hits. Bobcat pitcher Alex Stephens held the Grizzlies to one run in the first three innings, but gave up 5 runs on six hits in the fourth for a 6-0 Grizzlies lead. While the Bobcats responded in the 7th and 8th with two runs apiece, the Grizzlies responded with nine runs of their own, The Bobcats managed one more run in the ninth, but fell 15-5. The Cats were led at the plate by Jacob Karlson and J.D. Chadwell, both of whom went 2 for 4, and Kole Kelley was 1 for 2. Karlson, Schweiss and Tad Mitchell all tallied doubles during the game.
Having moved to the losers’ bracket, the Bobcats faced Edward Waters College from Jacksonville, Florida. Freshman Jansen McQuerter took the mound for the Bobcats, and while he did a fine job holding the Tigers to two runs through 7 innings, his offense could not seem to put any runs on the board. The bottom of the seventh seemed to be the Cats’ undoing, as the Tigers posted 3 runs on 4 hits and a wild pitch to take a 5-0 lead. Chadwell, Schweiss and Mitchell provided the only three hits for the Bobcats against Tiger Frederick Belz.
Powerhouse Georgia Gwinnett took the crown, defeating Talladega College (Ala.) 15-4 and 13-3. The Grizzlies have won the championship three of the last four years.
Congratulations go out to J.D. Chadwell and Alex Stephens (pictured), who were named to the A.I.I. All-Tournament Team.
The Bobcats officially close out their season at 30-21, saying farewell to five senior leaders—Alex Stephens, Winston Rasmussen, Austin Schweiss, Jesse Fisher, and J. D. Chadwell. The 2017 Bobcats were a team that displayed great success while overcoming much adversity throughout the season, excelling beyond expectations with great heart and determination.