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Midland tops DWU in GPAC championship

Dakota Wesleyan University's Tyler Johnson (24) leaps to catch a ball against Midland in the Great Plains Athletic Conference championship game Saturday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

The upstart Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team’s season came to an end as Midland finished with 17 hits in the Great Plains Athletic Conference championship game Saturday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

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The Tigers turned to Kyle Larson to start the title matchup after he threw 125 pitches in a DWU win over Briar Cliff two days prior. The Warriors came out swinging, building an early lead and topping the Tigers 10-1.

“We knew (Midland) could hit coming in and they did that to day,” DWU coach Steve Gust said. “They just flat out beat us. That’s baseball.”

Midland came out strong early, building a 6-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning. The Warriors scored a run on a error in the first inning and tacked on two more with a pair of RBI doubles from Jordyn Van Atta and Dylan Streyer in the third. After the Tigers got on the board with a run in the third inning, Midland pushed its lead to five with three more in the fourth.

The Tigers saw their best chance to get back in the game evaporate in the fifth inning after DWU loaded the bases on a pair of Midland errors and a single by Ben Ladner. The Warriors turned a double play on Neil Nagle to get out of the inning.

Wes Snyder came in to relieve Larson on the mound for DWU after throwing 129 pitches in a no hitter over Morningside College Thursday. He pitched 4 ⅔ innings for the Tigers, while allowing four runs on nine hits and striking out five. Larson went the first three innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits.

“The arm wasn’t completely there, but I thought it was there enough to start today and coach believed in me,” Larson, a senior, said after the game adding there was no doubt when he woke up Saturday he would be pitching in the title game.

“There is no better way to end a career than making a championship game at home in front of all of your fans. I just wish we had got the win.”

The Warriors were led by Jon Needels, who finished 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBIs. Midland starting pitcher Tyler Brungardt threw seven strong innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out three.

“There pitcher was tricky and he kept us off balance,” Gust said. “He is just a crafty pitcher.”

Jonah Johnson, Ladner, Sam Schumacher and Tyler Johnson each finished with a hit for DWU in the loss.

“This team has a lot of confidence going into next year after making this run,” Nagle said.

The Tigers end their season with a 27-24 record, while Midland (42-17) moves on to the NAIA National Baseball Championship Opening Round, which starts May 12 at various regional sites across the country.

“I think playing in this game will help our program in the long run,” Gust said. “We still have some work to do obviously, but for us to battle and get her is going to pay dividends.”