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Liberal bounces back for win after rain delay

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 29, 2013, at 6:53 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 29, 2013, at 9:31 a.m.

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Seth Davis showcased his abilities Sunday in the National Baseball Congress World Series, except not many people were around to see it.

If Davis’ first outing is any indication, though, the Liberal left-hander will get another chance or two to show what he has in front of bigger crowds.

After a nearly three-hour rain delay that drove away even the fans attempting to brave the wet conditions at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Davis delivered four dynamic innings and helped the Bee Jays beat Albuquerque 4-1 in a first-week losers bracket game.

Liberal scored the top of the sixth after a delay in which both teams were sent back to their hotels. Davis protected the lead by allowing one hit and striking out six.

“It was hard getting my mind right after such a long delay,” Davis said. “I ended up feeling good once I got out there. I’ve pitched before, so once you get out there it’s kind of the same thing.”

The game, originally scheduled for 8 a.m. Sunday, didn’t start until about 4 p.m. after rain affected games back to Saturday night. It was stopped after five innings in a 1-1 tie, and after about half an hour of waiting for the rain to subside, the teams were sent to shelter.

Liberal wasn’t immediately affected by the delays, scoring one run in the top of the first and three more in the decisive sixth. After runs scored on a sacrifice fly and wild pitch, No. 9 batter Lewis Guilbeau tripled to center field to bring in the third run.

Before the delay, the Bee Jays had managed one hit, the same total as Albuquerque, with both teams’ runs scoring on errors.

“I just knew that we needed to swing the bats a little bit better,” Liberal manager Brandon Kitch said. “I knew if we got to their bullpen, I guess it helped us out that they had to take their guy out. So did we, but I think our bullpen is a little deeper than theirs.”

The depth wasn’t needed because Davis, a Division III All-American from Augustana (S.D.) College, handled the second half of the game.

After Liberal’s three-run sixth, Davis struck out the Albuquerque side in order in the bottom half on 14 pitchers. Liberal lost a 13-inning game to San Diego on Saturday, so an economical use of its bullpen was necessary in an elimination game.

“Once you feel comfortable out there, you have a good handle on the ball and you see what kind of competition you’re facing, you can kind of pick your spots,” Davis said.

Davis is treating the NBC Tournament as a showcase because it’s not always easy to earn attention at a Division III school.

At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Davis doesn’t have a prototypical pitcher’s frame, but if he shows he can pitch well out of the bullpen, it could attract scouts who project him as a reliever. Finding any way to make an impression is important to Davis.

“I didn’t get heavily recruited out of high school,” Davis said. “But I’ve been playing in competitive leagues all summer and I know I can compete against the best.”

At Augustana this spring as a sophomore, Davis went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings, but it might not have garnered him as much regard as a strong showing in the tournament.

“He’s a guy that probably a lot of people missed on,” Kitch said. “He probably developed a little bit later than some guys, and that’s the beauty of baseball at this level. You can find diamonds on the rough. Augustana got a good arm in that guy.”

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