SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AUGUSTANA) — The No. 18-ranked Augustana baseball team needed to win in its 11 a.m. contest against No. 13 Minnesota State in order to force a winner-take-all championship of the NSIC Tournament and it did just that with a 9-2 victory. The Vikings, however, fell in game two 11-9, moving their record to 36-11 heading into the regional tournament.
Freshman righty Caleb Kranz got the start for Augustana in game one and was stellar. Kranz earned the victory, tossed eight innings, allowed just one earned run, scattered six hits and struck out five. Sophomore righty Josh Olson pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game off.
The Vikings struck first in game one as freshman infielder Max Mosser roped a one-out double to the left-center gap with one out in the top of the first and later came around to score on a two-out RBI double off the bat of junior catcher Will Olson.
After the Mavericks tied the game in the bottom of the first, Augustana retook the lead in the top of the second, scoring on an error from the Minnesota State shortstop. In the bottom of the second, the Mavericks countered and tied the ballgame at 2-2.
After a quiet third from both teams, Augustana took the lead for good in the top of the fourth. After senior shortstop Sam Baier was hit by a pitch, senior outfielder Riley Johnson smoked a perfectly-executed hit-and-run single to right field to put runners at the corners with one out. Johnson later came around to score in the inning on a two-out RBI single off the bat of junior outfielder Jaxon Rosencranz.
Up 3-2, the Vikings extended their lead to 6-2 with a three-spot in the top of the sixth. This time, Baier singled with one out and was followed by a Johnson hit by pitch. That brought the red-hot Rosencranz to the plate and he delivered, scorching a two-run double off the top of the right-center field wall for a 5-2 Viking lead. Sophomore outfielder Carter Howell drove Rosencranz in later in the inning with a two-out RBI single to right-center.
The Vikings tacked on two more in the top of the eighth with Mosser scoring on a single from junior infielder Jordan Barth and Olson launching a home run over the right-field wall. In the top of the ninth, Rosencranz singled, stole second and scored on an RBI double off the bat of junior infielder JT Mix to give the Vikings their ninth and final run of the game.
At the plate, Rosencranz led the way, going a perfect 3-for-3 with two walks while Mosser Barth and Olson all had two hits. Howell, senior infielder Christian Kuzemka, Baier, Johnson and Mix all finished with one hit apiece.
With two outs in the top of the first inning of game two, Barth smoked a double to the warning track and was followed by a free pass to first base from Olson. That brought Baier to the plate who delivered a two-out RBI single to give the Vikings a quick 1-0 lead.
After the first, however, Augustana was forced to play “catch-up” the entire afternoon as the Mavericks scored once in the first, three times in the third, and once in the fourth.
Down 5-1, the Vikings cut the lead in half in the top of the fifth on a two-run homer off the bat of Olson after a Barth double. The homer was Olson’s 15th of the season.
Minnesota State responded to Olson’s homer in the bottom of the fifth with a six-spot with six hits, giving it an 11-3 lead in the ballgame.
Augustana, with no quit in them whatsoever, fought back after the big frame from Minnesota State.
In the top of the sixth, the Vikings scored three times with RBI singles from Mosser and Barth and an RBI fielder’s choice from Baier.
Trailing 11-6 in the top of the seventh, the Vikings pushed three more runs across. Rosencranz and Mix singled to start the rally with Rosencranz scoring on an RBI single off the bat of Howell. Later in the frame, with the bases loaded, Olson singled through the right side to score two runs and bring the score to 11-9.
Down just two with two innings to play, the Mavericks’ Teddy Petersen stepped up to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. Petersen launched a ball over the right field wall, however, it found no grass as the Viking right fielder, Jaxon Rosencranz, leapt up with his back against the wall and robbed Petersen of a homer with a spectacular web-gem.
The incredible play kept the Mavericks off the scoreboard and sent the ballgame into the top of the eighth inning.
The Viking bats were then held quiet in the eighth and ninth innings, despite bringing the tying run to the plate when down to their last out.
In the loss, Augustana logged 19 hits. Barth, Rosencran and Olson all had three, Howell, Mosser, Mix and freshman catcher Drey Dirksen all had two and Baier and Johnson each had one.
Following the tournament, the NSIC All-Tournament Team was announced with Kuzemka, Howell and Rosencranz earning all-tournament honors.
Despite the loss, the season rolls on for the Augustana baseball team. The Vikings await their fate with the NCAA Division II Baseball Selection Show where the Central Region Tournament bracket will be announced Sunday at 9 p.m. on NCAA.com.