BARTLESVILLE — Freshman left-hander J.F. Ricard pitched seven strong innings to lead the fifth-seeded Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen to a 7-4 victory Friday evening over No. 3 seed Seminole State College in the Division I Region II baseball tournament at Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium.

With the victory, coach Roger Ward's Golden Norse carried a 28-21 season record into Saturday's 7 p.m. winner's bracket finals against the winner of the Rose State College (11-36) and Seminole elimination game played at noon.

Rose State advanced by upsetting No. 1 seed Connors State College 22-8 in seven innings in Thursday's opening round before dropping a 5-2 decision to Eastern State College in Friday's late game.

The fourth seed Eastern Mountaineers (31-25-1) dropped a 12-2 decision to Seminole in the first round and played Connors at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Connors remained alive in the double-elimination tournament by eliminating the second seeded Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions (43-15) 8-2 Friday afternoon.

It was an oddity that the No. 1 and 2 seeds played in an elimination game rather than the championship contest.

The loss brought down the curtain on UAFS's competition in junior college athletics. The Lions will compete on the four-year NCAA Division II level next season.

Following a winner's bracket final game at 7 p.m. Saturday, the first championship game will be played at 1 p.m. today followed by an “if necessary” game at 4 p.m.

Winner of the regional advances to the South Central District super regional May 15-16 at a site and time to be determined.

The super regional winner will play in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series, May 23-31, in Grand Junction, Colo.

“J.F. pitched a heck of a game,” Ward said. “Going in we thought if we got six innings from him it would be a plus because he missed four and a half weeks of the regular season.

“But, he kept them off balance and had great location on his pitches,” Ward said. “We probably could have stretched him through the eighth, but we didn't want to over-extend him,” Ward said.

“Then, Cameron (Mann), who also missed four and a half weeks came in and closed the door to get the save,” Ward said.

Ricard (6-3 from Eusatche, Ontario, Canada) retired the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a single to Seminole’s David Chester with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. He allowed three runs on six hits before giving way to Taylor Ferguson with one out in the bottom of the eighth. With the win Ricard is 5-1 on the season.

Ferguson allowed one run on two hits before Mann came on to get the final two outs in the eighth and strike out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth for his fifth save of the season.

“Not only did we get solid pitching, but we hit the ball well in the early innings,” Ward said. “We kind of tightened up at the plate late in the game and didn’t get the hits that could have put the game out of reach.”

Golden Norse leadoff hitter Josh Botts singled to right to start the game. After Ryan Bonner was hit by a pitch, Trevor Bowden singled to center, scoring Botts for a 1-0 NEO lead.

A walk by Luis Argumedes started a two-run second inning for the Golden Norsemen. Following a sacrifice bunt by Sean Mattson, Argenis Paz reached on an error by Cale Ellis at shortstop. Botts lined a double off the right-center field wall as both Argumedes and Mattson scored for a 3-0 Norse margin.

Four walks, an error by Ellis and a single by Bonner created a four-run fifth inning for the Golden Norsemen. Rickey Brown, Mann (starting at first base), Argumedes and Mattson received walks while Paz delivered an RBI sacrifice fly to increase NEO’s cushion to a 7-0 score.

Seminole starting pitcher Terrance Jackson, batting as the designated hitter, lined a triple to straight away center to start the four-run eighth for the Trojans. Ky Burgess singled to center scoring Jackson. After Chester popped out to left, James Lavinskas singled to right sending Ricard to the dugout. David Jackson singled to right-center off Ferguson and took second on an error by Wesley Starkes.

Pinch hitter Jerod Peper singled to right scoring both Lavinskas and David Jackson. Mann replaced Ferguson and got Spencer Barnett to pop out to second. Dustin Andrews singled to left with two outs.

After Peper and Andrews pulled off a double steal, pinch hitter Kyle Sissney poped out to third base to end the Trojans rally.

Botts collected a double and single to pace the five-hit Norse offense along with singles by Bonner, Bowden and Starkes.

Burgess led the nine-hit Seminole attack with a double and single.

Terrance Jackson, one of six Trojan pitchers, took the loss after allowing seven runs on five hits in four innings to slip to 7-3 on the year.

Monty Franks, 542-5533, ext. 3054

monty.franks@miaminewsrecord.com