Patrick’s grand slam helps Wright State win HL title, earn NCAA bid

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

Credit: Joseph R. Craven

FAIRBORN — Wright State’s Andrew Patrick knew his shot was leaving Nischwitz Stadium as soon as he connected.

He stood at the plate, admired it for several seconds and then flipped his bat toward his jubilant teammates, who were spilling out of the dugout.

The grand slam in the second inning propelled the resilient Raiders to a 14-0 victory over Oakland for their third straight Horizon League tourney title Saturday.

They’ll be making their 10th trip to the NCAA Regionals — their sixth since 2015 — and will watch the selection show at noon Monday on ESPN2 to learn their destination.

“That was a great feeling. I’m speechless. I’m just happy we won,” said Patrick, who was named the tourney MVP.

“I think that was my first grand slam. It felt amazing. When I hit it, I knew it was gone. I knew if we put pressure on them from the start — because the first game was very emotional — I knew we had it.”

The umpires didn’t appreciate the demonstration at the plate, but fifth-year coach Alex Sogard came to Patrick’s defense.

“I know he got into a little trouble with the bat flip, but he’s 19 years old. It’s the biggest game of his life. I was trying to remind the umpires of that,” he said.

“We got warned. But there was no malicious intent. It was pure joy. He wanted to celebrate with his teammates.”

The Raiders, who have captured five consecutive regular-season titles, had to win three straight games to seize the tourney crown after losing in the semifinals to Oakland, 6-5, in 10 innings.

But facing elimination, they beat Milwaukee, 2-1, on Friday and then rallied for a 9-8 victory in the first game against the Grizzlies on Saturday when Patrick ripped a game-winning homer to left in the ninth inning off HL reliever of the year Brandon Decker.

The sophomore center fielder padded his school home-run record to 19 with his two bombs.

“When you see (Decker) come into the game, it’s not a good thing. He’s such a talented pitcher. But AP is a big-time player, and he did it in a big-time moment,” Sogard said.

After breaking the record with his 17th on May 13, Patrick went two weeks and seven games without a homer before erupting.

“I think I was pressing, trying too hard to make things happen. But I tried to relax today, and I’m better when I’m relaxed,” he said.

The Raiders (39-21) have won a league-high 10 tourney titles and are accustomed to having an easy time at home.

In 2022, they swept three games by a combined score of 56-7.

In 2021, they went 3-0 by a margin of 40-10.

But the second-seeded Grizzlies (29-31), looking for their first title, were unexpectantly feisty — and the Raider offense was uncharacteristically clunky.

After averaging 7.3 runs and 9.3 hits per game in the regular-season, they had just 13 runs and 18 hits in the first three games.

But the bats came out of their coma Saturday. They had 13 hits in the first game and 16 in the second.

“We knew we were capable of doing this,” Sogard said. “There was some frustration early because we knew how talented we are. We weren’t hitting like we’re capable of hitting. But we knew if we won the first one, it’d be tough to stop us after that.”

The three tourney crowns in a row is a first for the Raiders. Julian Greenwell, Jay Luikart and pitchers Luke Stofel and Tristan Haught made the all-tourney team.

“This is probably the most special one, coming out of the losers bracket. I’m just proud of the way the guys fought, they just kept going,” Sogard said.

Greenwell had a homer in the championship game, and all nine batters had at least one hit by the third inning.

They had only four players with multi-hit games in the first three outings but nine in the last two.

Patrick finished the day 6-for-10 with two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs. Gehrig Anglin was 6-for-8 with a triple, two doubles and three RBIs. And Luikart was 4-for-11 with two homers, a triple, a double and four RBIs.

The Raiders were on the verge of elimination in the first game Saturday, trailing the Grizzlies, 6-3, in the fifth inning.

After ripping a pair of solo homers, Luikart connected for a two-run triple, sparking a rally that gave the Raiders an 8-6 lead.

The Grizzlies tied it, 8-8, in the bottom of the seventh (they were playing as the home team), and then summoned the intimidating Decker.

After the hard-throwing righty pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, Patrick hit his cloud-scraping homer in the ninth as 692 fans popped out of their seats.

Haught, pitching 2.1 innings, gave up just a single in the bottom of the ninth to get the win.

He also started and pitched seven shutout innings to earn the win in the second game.

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