In a familiar venue at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita, seven former Seward County Saints became National Champions Friday night by taking home the 2010 NBC World Series Championship in the tournaments 76th installment. The Bee Jays defeated the Seattle Studs 9-6 in a one game, winner take all championship game, to avenge an earlier loss to the Studs and finish the tournament 7-1. 2008 graduate Tomas Cruz had the ball in his hand with the game on the line with two outs in the bottom of the 9th while fellow ’08 grad David Masters was ready to receive the pitch behind the plate. 2010 NJCAA All-American Kelby Tomlinson had just made yet another spectacular play in short center field to record the 2nd out of the inning while fellow 2010 grads Quay Grant and Jared Wagner, as well as ’09 Saints closer Travis Parker were on their feet in the bullpen. Not to be forgotten was 2007-08 Saint Christian Kowalchuk who was one of the key members of the Bee Jays pitching staff all summer long, but was shut down late in the season due to an arm injury and was unable to pitch in the tournament.

Many dreams had ended in Wichita for these seven young men as in 2008 Tomas Cruz, David Masters, and Christian Kowalchuk’s Seward County careers came to an end on the turf of Lawrence Dumont Stadium. In 2009 Travis Parker’s Saints were shocked at Dumont by Cowley in two straight games to end his one magical season in Liberal. Finally just three short months ago, Kelby Tomlinson, Quay Grant, and Jared Wagner thought that they had seen the last of the historic stadium when their two year ride with the Saints came to a close after an extra inning battle with rival Hutchinson went the way of the Blue Dragons. However, in a magical two week run that culminated with a championship game rematch against the Seattle Studs, those seven Saints had undoubtedly one of the highlights of their baseball careers on the ‘old school’ turf carpet of LD as the final out was secured and nobody else in the amateur baseball world was above them as they were crowned NBC World Champions.

Cruz was THE man in the back end of the bullpen for the Bee Jays since he joined the team late in the season. After posting a 2-0 record with 4 saves and a 0.56 ERA during the regular season, the Saint turned Clemson Tiger threw in 5 of the 8 Bee Jay games in the tournament, picking up 2 wins and a save in 7 2/3 innings of work. Masters played in 6 games in the tournament and drew the call to handle the Liberal staff in the championship game behind the plate on Friday. He posted a .977 fielding percentage behind the plate during the tournament and scored 6 runs while driving in a pair. Tomlinson capped a summer in which he was named Bee Jays MVP by leading all players in the tournament with 12 stolen bases while playing gold glove defense and posting a .395 on base percentage in the eight games. Parker threw just once in the tournament but was a key piece of the Bee Jays lockdown bullpen during the regular season, pitching in 17 games and posting a 2.42 ERA in 26 innings pitched on the season. Grant threw a pair of scoreless innings in the tournament, allowing just 2 hits while striking out a batter. Wagner drew the start for Liberal in their win Sunday against St. Joseph, Missouri and went 4 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and later in the tournament threw a scoreless inning against Seattle in the team’s first matchup of the week. Kowalchuk, while not able to pitch in the tournament, played a large part in the Bee Jays success this summer. The former Saints lefty and then College World Series participant with the University of Arkansas, recorded a 3-2 record for Liberal in 25 innings pitched, striking out 18 and walking just 7 in 6 starts on the year.

The group joins a list of players a mile long that started their big league dreams in Wichita at the NBC Tournament. The list includes current MLB stars such as Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum, Trevor Hoffman, and Mark Texeira along with legends like Satchel Paige, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire also spotting the list. Whose name will it be 10 years from now that we look back and remember donning the Bee Jay powder blue and red? It could be one of these seven who will always say that their college career started right here in Liberal as a Saint at Seward County.