MARSHALL, Tx (ETBU Athletics) – Destiny continues to be on #15/19 East Texas Baptist University’s side as they punched their ticket to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament winning the Marshall, Texas Super Regional Championship. It took two games on day two of the Super Regional as ETBU won the final game, 14-6, over the University of Laverne after losing the first game of the day, 9-8. ETBU is now 40-13 on the year.

“That’s a really, really good ball club we beat today. I am so proud of our guys as we could have cashed it in after losing that first game in the fashion that we did. It felt like the wheels were coming off a little bit but these guys found a way to reel it back in and stay centered and to go out and get another game,” says head coach Jared Hood.

ETBU scored 23 runs combined with 30 hits in two games with three home runs. Jake Miller led the way with five hits going 5-for-6 in game three with three RBI. Also adding five hits were Brett Wagner and Jacob Evangelista while Jordan Hara posted four hits. Wagner led with six RBI as Carson Wilson had four with a grand slam home run. Miller and Jase Jones collected home runs to go with Wilson’s for three on the day for the team.

Miller commented about his team and heading into game three saying, “This team is just a great group of guys as we pick each other up. Even in that first game when we were down we were confident in the ninth inning but came up short. Headed into the third game, we knew we were going to battle and swing it. We had Jagger on the mound and we knew he was lights out for us the past couple of weeks. We went in with a full group of confidence with the awesome guys to play with.”

Jagger Neely went six innings in the final game allowing just one earned run with three strikeouts earning his third win of the year. It is his second post-season win after pitching a gem in the American Southwest Conference Championship game to be named the Most Outstanding Player on May 7.

“It felt good to get the call for game three to pitch the game today,” said Neely. “I’m not doing anything in this game without my teammates behind me making plays, hitting balls, and getting me runs, giving me confidence and letting me go out there and throw the ball.”

ETBU makes their first appearance in the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament and will see where they are seeded on Sunday. The seven other teams are Endicott (Mass.), John Hopkins (Md.), Baldwin Wallace (Ohio), Misericordia (Pa.), Wisconsin-LaCrosse, Lynchburg (Va.), and Salisbury (Md.).

Hood comments on where the program is today in his 11th year at ETBU and ninth as head coach. He says, “It’s been a long one and I didn’t really know what to expect in taking over a program. I knew one thing that if you went into a place and you were transparent about what the school represented and what you represent as a program and you get kids that believe in that and embrace each other and they will stay for the duration and that’s what we have been able to do that here. Some really incredible things can happen in those four years as they mature in the process. To see the end process for a lot of these kids, it’s a dream come true.”

The first game of the day looked as if it would go ETBU’s way early as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings. Ben Lea had a single for the first run of the game and Wagner came through with a bases loaded double for a 4-0 lead in the first inning. A Nick Massarini sacrifice fly gave ETBU the 5-0 lead in the third inning. La Verne, a gritty team that won the Birmingham Regional through their strong comeback play, came up with three runs in the fourth to pull within two, 5-3.

ETBU made it 7-3 adding two runs in the fifth on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly. It was the bottom of the sixth inning where La Verne made their move. The Leopards scored four runs with one out to tie the game at seven and then went ahead on a passed ball, 8-7, with two outs. Their ninth run came in the seventh inning on an ETBU balk as they moved ahead by two, 9-7. ETBU rallied in the top of the ninth, pulling to within one on an Evangelista RBI single, but was thrown out on a head’s up by La Verne to end the game forcing the final game of the series, 9-8.

Collins went 5.1 innings in the game with three strikeouts allowing five earned runs for the no-decision. With the three strikeouts, he broke the ETBU single season record of 121 strikeouts he set last season.

The second game mirrored the stat of game one as ETBU took a 7-0 lead after two innings. Wagner made it 1-0 in the top of the first on a single as Hara came in. In the second inning with one out, ETBU had three straight hits to setting up Wilson’s grand slam home run breaking open the game for a 5-0 lead. Three batters later, Wagner recorded two more RBI with a single up the middle as both Lea and Hara came in making it 7-0.

La Verne earned one run in the third inning to come within six, 7-1, but ETBU added two runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth inning making it 13-1. Hara single allowed Evangelista and Miller to come home for a the eight-run lead, 9-1. Two home runs in the sixth inning provided four more runs. Jones shot down the left field line put ETBU up, 11-1, and three batters later Miller sent a shot over the net in left field for a two-run home run and a 12-run advantage, 13-1.

The Leopards scratched across a run in the seventh and eighth inning but were still down 10, 13-3. Miller earned his third RBI of the game in the ninth innings on a single to center field as ETBU went up, 14-3. With La Verne’s past in comebacks, they didn’t go away easily rallying for three runs. Their rally was cut short when Evangelista stepped on third base for the third out on a fielder’s choice ending the game and sending ETBU to the National Championship Tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Jake Miller went 5-for-6 with three RBI in the game as Wagner and Hara both added three hits. Jacob Sherman, Cody Johnson, and Hayden Robichaux all worked one inning as the pitching staff combined for six strikeouts.

ETBU will now wait and see who they will play at the national championship tournament starting on June 2.