MAGNOLIA, Ark. – Senior Jacob Blank struck out the first batter of Friday’s NCAA Central Regional game to set an Augustana record with 210 strikeouts, and even though he did not figure in the decision, he did contribute to a 4-2 win over Emporia State to send the Vikings into Saturday with a perfect 2-0 mark in the tournament.
The win extends the No. 5 seed Vikings school-record for wins to 46, compared to eight losses, while the No. 8 seed Hornets fall to 34-23, and play No. 3 seed Central Oklahoma in an elimination game on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Down 1-0 in the fourth, the Vikings got a one-out single and stolen base from Michael Svozil to get things started. Sam Baier followed with a single through the left side to put runners on the corners with one out, setting up Jordan Barth, who delivered a game-tying single to left that scored Svozil to knot the game at 1-1.
The Vikings took their first lead of the game an inning later, without the benefit of a hit. Lucas Wylie drew a lead-off walk, and advanced to second on a Lucas Barry fielder’s choice, thanks to a muffed throw. Both Wylie and Barry advanced a base on a Ryan Menssen sacrifice, before Wylie scored on a JT Mix groundout that gave Augustana a 2-1 lead.
The lead held until the sixth, when Emporia State cobbled together a couple of hits, starting with a lead-off double, to score the equalizer.
Tied into the Vikings half of the ninth, Baier opened the inning with a double to left center, and then stole third when Ryan Nickel walked to put runners on the corners with one out. That brought up Wylie, who laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Baier for the go-ahead run. Wylie also reached, and advanced to second on an error on the play to put runners on second and third with one out and a 3-2 lead.
Barry capitalized on the situation, driving a ball to deep left center field, which allowed Nickel to tag and score from third to add an insurance run that put the Vikings up 4-2 into the bottom of the ninth.
Zach Reeg took care of the rest, sitting Emporia State down in order in the bottom of the inning to secure the win. He also earned the win to improve to 4-0 on the season after pitching 1.2 perfect innings.
Blank pitched five innings in earning a no decision. He gave up one run on four hits, with a walk and a pair of strikeouts, which boosts his Augustana record to 211, and his career-high season total to 88.
The Vikings now await the winner of the No. 2 Central Missouri vs. No. 6 St. Cloud State game in the winner’s bracket on Saturday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the regional championship game on Monday.
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