By Clint Buckley
Tyler Morning Telegraph
The UT Tyler bats drained any drama right out of its clinching of the American Southwest Conference East Division title on Saturday.
Kevin Noles and Philip Grau combined for 11 hits and 12 RBIs in the Patriots' 12-5, 16-2 sweep of LeTourneau at the UT Tyler Baseball Complex.
The two Patriots' (30-7, 16-5) wins coupled with East Texas Baptist's split with Mississippi College on Saturday gave the UT Tyler baseball program its first division championship in just its second year of existence.
Chase Tarrant's strikeout of Josh Swain set off a wild celebration, which included a dogpile in front of the pitcher's mound and Gatorade showers for head coach James Vilade and pitching coach Jack Price.
"These guys have worked so hard and deserve it," Vilade said. "To get to this point in such a short period of time is a testament to the quality characters of the kids we have."
The Patriots are not, however, eligible for next week's conference tournament. The school is in its second of a four-year provisional period, prohibiting UT Tyler from competing in any NCAA-sanctioned postseason event.
Noles had two hits and five RBIs in the Game 1 victory. Gifford Dixon had three hits and both J. Michael Sharon and Grau had two.
"It's been our goal all year," said Noles, a junior from Levelland. "We started off 0-3 in conference ... it hasn't really hit us yet."
Tim Matthews (8-2), despite struggling for much of the game, picked up his fifth straight win, allowing five runs, eight hits and six walks in six innings.
In Game 2, the Patriots scored eight runs in the first inning and never looked back. Grau went 5-for-6 with four RBIs, and Sharon, Noles, Dixon and Luis Correa all had two RBIs.
"I try to get set and see the ball long," said Grau, who clocked his team-leading ninth homer of the season in the fourth inning. "It's a great feeling. This is my senior year and it's what I've worked for."
Tony Harvot (6-0) pitched five innings, surrendering just one unearned run on seven hits. James Lewis gave up a run on three hits in three innings of relief, and Tarrant worked a scoreless ninth.
The Patriots will conclude their season by hosting Rogers State (Okla.) for a three-game series, beginning at 6 p.m., Friday. Rogers State is an NCAA Division III independent, competing in its first season of baseball.
UT Tyler 12, LeTourneau 5
LeTourneau 201 200 0 - 5 8 3
UT Tyler 060 150 x - 12 11 1
Demetri White, Shane Beans (5) and Kevin Ramm; Tim Matthews, Chase Tarrant (7) and Zach James. W - Matthews (8-2). L - White (4-4). 2B - L: Josh Swain. UTT: Gifford Dixon. 3B - UTT: Kevin Noles. HR - L: Cody Aldredge (first inning, one on). UTT: Philip Grau (fourth inning, solo). SB - L: Derek Fitchett, Ethan Cravalho. UTT: Chris Goss (2). SAC - L: Matthew Neighbors.
UT Tyler 16, LeTourneau 2
LeTourneau 100 000 100 - 2 11 3
UT Tyler 800 200 06x - 16 14 3
Caleb Mellbom, Neighbors (1), Ryan Henson (4), Beans (8) and Ramm; Tony Harvot, James Lewis (6), Tarrant (9) and James, Steve Campbell (5). W - Harvot (6-0). L - Mellbom (3-1). 2B - L: Swain, Roger Gage. UTT: Grau, Noles, Luis Correa. SB - UTT: Juice Williams, Correa (2), Goss.
RECORDS - LeTourneau 13-22 (6-15); UT Tyler 30-7 (15-6).
NEXT UP - Rogers State (Okla.) at UT Tyler, 6 p.m. Friday.
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