The Rams and Crusader’s have butted heads in the past two Regional Tournaments, with North Central posting a 3-0 shutout this year.
Last year, with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, North Central came back to win it 2-1.
Sophomore Tim Shelp (Independence, Mo.) pitched five innings and held the Rams to three runs on five hits while striking out five, but missed scoring opportunities doomed Maranatha in a 3-0 loss.
The highlight of the tournament came when junior second baseman Jason Garrison (Watertown, Wis.) posted his 100th career hit.
Garrison finished the season with 34 hits and currently stands as the career hits leader for Maranatha.
Garrison also set the record for career stolen bases (52) by a Maranatha player, followed by teammate Nathan Lyle (32) in second.
The Crusaders failed to record a win in the competitive Northern Athletics Conference, but had several impressive performances.
Perhaps the best example, a 4-0 loss at the hands of Concordia Wisconsin, was a scoreless affair entering the seventh inning. The Falcons were held to seven hits until that point by Joel Borchardt (Watertown, Wis.) and waited until the eighth to score three more.
In a loss to Edgewood, Derek Funkhouser (Paris, Ill.) held the Eagles scoreless through four innings before succumbing to a 13-3 loss.
The Crusader’s hope to continue that line of improvement next year, but will do so without Garrison and Lyle, both having graduated.
The team will rely on players like Shelp and Borchardt. Shelp struggled through injuries but remains one of the best overall players after averaging .294 and leading the team in strikeouts (30) and ERA (6.03).
Borchardt, another valuable utility player, was a reliable fielder and pitcher throughout the season. Borchardt became the top pitcher and logged the most innings when Shelp struggled through injuries.
Coach Garrison will need that leadership from returning players to continue the development of the team if they hope to move past North Central next spring.