Exploding for four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, the 14th ranked Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen earned a 7-5 victory in nine innings Wednesday over Cowley College of Arkansas City, Kan., at Homa Thomas Field.
Golden Norse head coach became the 51st National Junior College Athletic Association head baseball coach to reach the 500-victory plateau Sunday with a 5-3 victory over Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods in Kansas City, Mo.
During his 13-year career at NEO, Ward has compiled a 459-242 overall record and a combined 501-287 mark including two years as head coach at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus.
"We celebrated a little, but unfortunately we were on the road so nobody really knew I passed the mark," Ward said. "It's a tremendous milestone for me as an individual, but I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the effort of an awful lot of dedicated kids. To win this many games involves a lot of people and I'm not big on numbers
While winning their sixth straight game and eight out of nine played at Homa Thomas Field, the Norsemen are 17-4 on the season. Coach Dave Burroughs' Cowley Tigers are 13-2 in the Eastern Division of the Kansas Jayhawk Conference and 15-13 overall.
The Golden Norsemen begin a four-game road trip on Sunday with a 1 p.m. nine-inning game at Northern Oklahoma College-Enid. The Norse defeated the Jets 10-6 on March 1 in Miami. The Division 2 Jets are ranked fifth in the nation with a 28-8 season record.
Cowley grabbed their only lead of the game in the top of the first inning off NEO starter Keaton Hernandez. After Fernando Martinez was hit by a pitch, Gadiel Baez walked. Griffith Roark reached on a bunt to fill the bases. A sacrifice fly to center by Mike Parker scored Martinez for a 1-0 Tigers lead.
NEO retaliated with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Samuel Domingue singled. Pete Hoyt doubled to left-center scoring Domingue. After a sacrifice fly to right by Mark Podlas moved Hoyt to third, Kevin Meyers hit a fielder's choice to short scoring Hoyt for a 2-1 Norse margin.
"I thought Keaton pitched well for not having thrown in two weeks because of the weather," Ward said. "He got into three bases loaded jams and only gave up one run so I thought he fought hard because he's a bend-but-not-break type of kid."
A two-out home run by Parker in the top of the third rallied the Tigers to a 2-2 tie.
Dom Samyn doubled to start a four-run bottom of the fourth inning for the Golden Norse. Dustin Exford forced Samyn at second on a ground ball back to the pitcher Bryan McClellan. Josh Schnable doubled to left-center with Exford holding at third. Zane Fish singled to center scoring both Exford and Schnable. Dominigue reached on a bunt as Fish came around to score on an errant throw to third. Hoyt followed with a single to right scoring Domingue for a 6-2 cushion.
Singles by Cris Roman and Martinez started the top of the fifth inning for Cowley. Baez followed with an RBI single scoring Roman for a 6-3 deficit. Two ground outs and a strike out got Hernandez out of the inning without any further damage.
The Tigers trimmed the deficit to 6-5 in the top of the seventh inning after relief pitcher Shawn Reid hit Roman with a pitch. Roman went to second on a fielder's choice by Martinez and scored on a RBI single by Baez. A passed ball and a balk sent Baez to third before Parker singled to left scoring Baez.
"The thing about our offense at this point is that we are finding ways to win," Ward said. "If the top half of our lineup doesn't get the job done, then the bottom half does."
Pinch hitter Calvin Ellis singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning for NEO. After Schnable singled, Domingue was intentionally walked to fill the bases. Hoyt singled scoring pinch runner C.J. Wilson with the final run of the game.
Hoyt collected three of the 14 total Golden Norse hits while Domingue, Samyn and Schnable contributed two hits each.
Parker and Baez paced the 10-hit Tigers attack with two hits each.
Northeastern A&M 7, Cowley, Kan. 5
Cowley 101 010 200 - 5 10 3
NEO 200 400 01x - 7 14 2
Keaton Hernandez, Shawn Reid (7), Dany Coulombe (7), Rafael Diaz (8) and Josh Schnable; Bryan McClellan, Ty Rowe (4), Clark Roberts (7) and Roger Diaz. W - Hernandez (6-0). L - McClellan (2-1). 2b - NEO, Hoyt, Samyn, Schnable. HR - Cowley, Parker (2).