PLAY AT THE PLATE SENDS BULLDOGS TO NSIC TOURNEY LOSERS BRACKET IN 6-5 SETBACK AGAINST MAVERICKS
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Ninety feet may not seem like a long distance, but to the University of Minnesota Duluth baseball team that increment of length seemed awfully elongated on Wednesday (May 9) night.
The Bulldogs (24-26) had what would have been the tying run to force a bottom of the ninth thrown out at home plate in a 6-5 setback to No. 5-ranked Minnesota State in the final game of the opening round of the NSIC Tournament at Franklin Rogers Park in Mankato.
With the setback, the Bulldogs are forced to win on Thursday (May 10) or see their season come to an end.
"We definitely had our chances in this game, and unfortunately it came down to the final play that didn't go our way," said head coach Bob Rients. "We had a never-say-die attitude out there tonight and I'm proud of the guys for the way the hung in and competed against a very talented squad."
The Bulldogs wasted no time in getting under the skin Minnesota State starter Harvey Martin. The 2012 NSIC Newcomer of the Year gave up a leadoff walk to Marcus Riewer before Anders Engberg and Cody Aasen smacked consecutive one-out single to load the bases for the Bulldogs.
Taking advantage of a sloppy Maverick defensive unit, Orry Engebretsen was credited with an RBI after reaching base on a catcher’s interference call with two outs before Max Ryan staked the Bulldogs to a 2-0 lead after he reached first safely after shortstop Connor McCallum misplayed a routine grounder that allowed everyone to advance.
Jordan Smith pitched his way out of a one-out jam in the bottom of the first before allowing the tying runs in the bottom of the ensuing frame thanks to a two-out RBI single coupled with a passed ball. The Mavericks racked four hits in the frame, but Smith limited the damage with a three-pitch strikeout of Patrick Dockendorf to keep the damage to a minimum.
Getting at least one hit per inning off of Martin, the Bulldogs broke the deadlock in the top of the fifth. Mike Darley produced his first hit of the day with a leadoff single while Aasen contributed a one-out single to the UMD offensive cause later in the frame.
Both runners were moved into scoring position thanks to a balk by Martin who plunked Evan Walker to load the bases for Engebretsen. The Duluth, Minn., product put UMD in front again with an RBI single to left field before Ryan was credited with his first RBI of the night after reaching on a fielder’s choice that scored Aasen, making it 4-2 UMD.
"We could have scored more runs, there's no doubt about it," stated Rients. "You have to give credit to Martin. He made the tough pitches when it counted to limit our damage, but overall I thought we had some great at-bats."
Meanwhile, Smith – the NSIC leader in walks allowed – was settling into a nice groove on the pitching rubber. After a rocky bottom of the second he stranded four Mavericks on the base paths over the next three innings to keep UMD in front.
Having solved Martin, the Mavericks replaced their ace with reliever Bryce Bellin who could seemingly do no wrong against the UMD lineup. Over three innings, UMD could muster only one hit off the talented reliever who allowed in infield single to Ryan in the top of the eighth.
Smith ran into some trouble of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Having struck out the first batter he faced, Smith gave up a solo homerun to the light hitting number nine batter McCallum. After fanning the next batter, the junior gave up a single followed by an RBI triple off the bat of Dockendorf that knotted matters at four before Smith escaped the frame with yet another K.
After the sixth, Smith was lifted for Matt Erickson who pitched to three batters in the seventh and got his three outs with a pair of ground balls and a 1-3-6-1 pickoff. After his efficient seventh, things took a wrong turn for the junior in the eighth. After giving up a leadoff double, a sacrifice bunt put the winning run just 90 feet away. Michael Stocke was summoned from the bullpen to help the Bulldogs escape the jam, but instead hit the first batter he faced before intentionally walking Matt Kuchenbecker to load the bases.
An RBI fielder’s choice off the steel of Dockendorf coupled with an error by Riewer gave the Mavericks a 6-4 lead before Stocke escaped the inning.
Not willing to go down without a fight, Engberg drew a one-out base on balls against Minnesota State closer Nick Sutherland before Aasen advanced the senior all the way to third with his fourth hit of the evening.
A wild offering from Sutherland allowed Engberg to score while Aasen moved into scoring position before being lifted for pinch runner Kellen McCoshen. With two outs, Engebretsen launched a high chopper to the replacement Minnesota shortstop, who fired an errant throw to first base allowing the junior to reach. Unfortunately, Matt Odegaard recovered quickly enough to throw out McCoshen at the plate be a considerable margin for the final out of the game.
Aasen, who had not registered a hit against the Minnesota State pitching staff in 2012, went 4-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. Engebretsen picked up a pair of RBI with a 1-for-4 night while Ryan plated another UMD run with a 2-for-4 performance. The Bulldogs stranded 10 runners on the base paths, as did the Mavericks who committed a trio of errors compared to just one by UMD.
"Cody was our leader today from an offensive standpoint," said Rients. "His good day needs to carry over to the rest of the lineup because it takes more than one guy getting hot at this time of year."
Smith worked six innings and fanned seven while allowing no walks in his no decision. Erickson (1-2) was hit with the loss while Bellin improved to 8-1 and as Sutherland picked up save number 13 of 2012.
"We're going to see what we're made of tomorrow, that's for sure," Rients said.
Kicked down into the losers bracket, the Bulldogs will face Augustana at noon on Thursday (May 10). A live video stream and live stats will be provided for the tilt with the links for the multimedia options available at the NSIC Tournament site.
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