Wright State baseball: Raiders win sixth straight league crown in dramatic fashion

FAIRBORN — Wright State went into the final series of the regular-season needing to beat visiting Northern Kentucky just once to win the Horizon League.

Though NKU is the best-hitting team in the conference, the Raiders couldn’t be faulted if they expected a relatively stress-free weekend — but it didn’t turn out that way.

They lost the first two games 8-5 and 8-2 and were tied, 9-9, on Saturday after blowing a three-run lead in the top of the ninth.

“It was a whirlwind. We talk all the time about how you’ve got to get 27 outs. In college baseball, crazy things can happen,” said coach Alex Sogard, whose team had a 6-0 lead after the first inning.

“We knew they’d eventually get to us a little because their offense is too good not to. We knew we had to continue to score.”

The first two batters reached base in the bottom of the ninth on a walk and hit-by-pitch. And then Andrew Patrick crushed a three-run walk-off homer with one out for a 12-9 victory, giving the Raiders their sixth straight crown.

“I knew if we could keep it to a tie game in the top of the ninth, our guys would come through. Andrew Patrick has had a challenging year (with a fractured thumb), and he’s had a tough time coming back from that. It was good to see him step up like that,” Sogard said.

“I reminded our guys: Winning is hard. We went through more adversity this year than we have in previous years. And even this weekend, we didn’t play great, and they played really good. Northern Kentucky is a really good team. But we stepped up when it mattered in the most important game of the year.”

The Raiders are 31-22 overall and finished 20-10 in the league. The Norse, who were seeking their first title since joining the conference in 2016, fell to 32-22 and 19-11.

Wright State will host the double-elimination league tourney again and is shooting for a fourth consecutive title.

It starts Wednesday with Milwaukee (the fourth seed) facing Purdue Fort Wayne (5) at 11 a.m.

Oakland (3) plays Youngstown State (6) at 3 p.m.

Wright State will play the lowest remaining seed at 11 a.m. Thursday, while NKU (2) plays the highest remaining seed at 3 p.m.

The championship game is noon Saturday.

A second game if needed will be at 4 p.m.

“It’s such a huge advantage hosting the tournament. For the seniors and fifth-year guys, that’s all they know,” Sogard said.

“We play well at home (notching a 14-6 record). I’m excited that it’s back at Nischwitz Stadium.”

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