Gents Advance to Championship Game to Face ORU
Friday, May 25, 2007

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Will Kaage led the Gents
to the championship game Saturday

MACOMB, Ill. -- Centenary (28-30) advanced to the 2007 Mid-Continent Conference Baseball Tournament Championship Game, defeating Valparaiso (22-34), 6-1, Friday at Boyer Stadium. The Gents face Oral Roberts in the championship game Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Facing Oral Roberts in the championship game for the second time in program history, Centenary will be making its second appearance in the title game in the last three seasons.

Behind the pitching of senior Will Kaage (Burlington, Wash.) and solid defense by the infield, Centenary built a 3-0 lead against the Crusaders in the second elimination game Friday.

Despite carrying a 3-6 record in Friday afternoon’s start against Valparaiso, Kaage dug deep to record one of his best starts of the season.

Allowing three hits over the first five innings, Kaage stranded four Valpo runners with an aggressive approach on the mound.

"I was pitching with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because it could possibly be my last start," Kaage said. "The team played awesome behind me."

Limiting Valparaiso, which registered 20-plus hits against Western Illinois Thursday, to just five hits, Kaage gave credit to Gent catcher Alex Maldonado (Whittier, Calif.) for calling a great game. The senior right-hander said he kept Valpo offbeat the entire game, throwing off-speed and then throwing his fastball more for strikes.

Centenary took a 3-0 lead in the fifth, with the scoring started by senior Justin Huff (Beaumont, Texas), who got on by an error by Valpo shortstop Jeff Rickert.

With the bases loaded, Huff hit a roller to Rickert, which was eventually fumbled, resulting in Calvin Sanchez (Santa Cruz, Calif.) scoring from third.

The next batter following Huff, senior Justin Darr (The Woodlands, Texas) responded with a big, two-RBI single up the middle to score Garrett DeRooy (Duvall, Wash.) and Teddy Saenz (San Jose, Calif.).

Darr, a senior designated hitter, was one of the bright spots for the Gents in Friday’s two wins.

Going 3-for-8 over the two games with four RBI and two runs scored, Darr is taking advantage of his last opportunity as a collegiate player.

"I’m playing like my back’s against the wall because I want to play as long as I can," Darr said. "It’s my last year and I want to go out with a bang."

Leading 3-0 after five, Kaage gave way to freshman reliever Dakota Robinson (Bossier City) in the sixth with no outs and the bases loaded.

Robinson immediately stepped up and showed why he earned second team All-Mid-Con accolades as a true-freshman reliever.

Robinson forced the first batter he faced, Valpo outfielder Jason Brunelli, to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Although allowing Crusader infielder Michael Arensdorff to score on the play, Robinson struck out Ryan Manthei to end the inning, preventing a potential scoring opportunity for the Crusaders.

Gaining momentum after Robinson’s effort in the sixth, Centenary added a run the following inning when Darr singled to right to score Saenz from second.

The Centenary scoring continued in the eighth with two runs on a sharp single down the first-base line by senior Nate Santiago (Mukilteo, Wash.). Facing the hard-throwing Dallas Cawiezell of the Crusaders, who’s pitches are said to be in the low 90’s by conference coaches, Santiago blazed a pitch down the line to score Sanchez and Cameron Penney (Valley Center, Calif.).

In the bottom of the ninth, Robinson induced a 5-4-3 double play by Valpo catcher Josh Piazza to end the game, helping the Gents capture a spot in the championship game.

The Gents become only the second No. 4 seed to make it to the championship game under the current tournament format. Ironically, it was Centenary who advanced as the No. 4 seed during the 2005 season, falling to Oral Roberts in the title game.

Having to win on the final weekend of the conference regular season to even make it to Macomb, Ill. and the 2007 Mid-Con Championships, Centenary head coach Ed McCann could not be more proud of his Gents for their effort Friday.

"It just says volumes about this senior class," McCann said following the win against Valpo. "Kaage and Fulenchek and Darr, their first years here we struggled. Those guys have really helped us get to the right level that we need to be at. Our program at least has advanced in the right direction."

In Saturday’s game, the Gents look to earn redemption for an opening-round loss to the Golden Eagles Thursday, outscored by ORU 20-0.

A different team with a different mindset takes the field in Saturday’s game Now 2-2 in the tournament, Centenary was arguably the hottest-hitting team in Friday’s three games. Combined, the Gents racked up 23 hits over the two games.

Eliminated with another loss, Centenary looks to continue to dance as the Cinderellas of the Mid-Con Tournament.

The Gents look to make program history Saturday.

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