TULSA, Okla. (KELO) — South Dakota State relief pitchers combined to allow only one run over the final 7 1/3 innings, while the offense heated up late in the game as the Jackrabbits staved off elimination at the Summit League Baseball Championship Thursday with a 9-5, come-from-behind victory over Western Illinois.
With the win, SDSU improved to 28-21 overall and moves on to face either Oral Roberts or Omaha in another elimination game at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The winner of the ORU-Omaha game, which begins at 11 a.m. Friday, will move on to Saturday’s championship, while the loser will face the Jackrabbits. Second-seeded SDSU opened tournament play earlier in the day with a 5-2 loss to host and third-seeded Oral Roberts.
Western Illinois, which had its season end with a 22-31 record, jumped out to a 4-0 lead through two innings with a pair of two-run frames against Jackrabbit starter Nic McCay. The Leathernecks’ first run in the opening inning scored on a wild pitch before Deion Thompson hit a solo home run to left-center field.
The Leathernecks knocked out McCay in the bottom of the second, scoring on a groundout and bases-loaded walk to C.J. Schaeffer Jr. McCay walked four, allowed four hits and struck out two in his first postseason start.
SDSU head coach Rob Bishop made the crucial decision to try to stem the tide with all-Summit League closer Bret Barnett. The sophomore left-hander answered the bell by striking out four over 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits began to chip away, starting with a run in the top of the third. Luke Ira led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third on a flyout. Ira later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Drew Beazley.
Brett Mogen followed with three shutout frames out of the bullpen after working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam he inherited in the bottom of the fifth. Mogen, making his second appearance of the day, struck out a season-high five batters and became the pitcher of record for SDSU after the Jackrabbits tied the game with a three-run seventh inning and took the lead with a five-run top of the eighth.
Landon Badger started both rallies as SDSU batted around in both frames. In the seventh, Badger drew a leadoff walk and scored on Beazley’s double to right. Beazley later scored on a groundout to pull to within 4-3. Braeden Brown came through with the game-tying hit, a single to right-center field that plated Gus Steiger.
Badger led off the decisive eighth inning with the first of five Jackrabbit hits in the inning, a single to right. Nick Smith put runners at the corners with his fourth hit of the game, a single to right. Badger scored the go-ahead run on a balk and Smith later came across on a single to right by Steiger. The Jackrabbits then perfectly executed a double steal with Braeden Brown on the front end and Steiger scoring from third on the back end for a 7-4 lead.
Derek Hackman capped the five-run top of the eighth with a two-run double to score both Brown and Matthew Krambeck.
Western Illinois got a run back in the bottom of the eighth on a Drue Galassi solo home run, but Austin Suhr and Beazley combined to record the final six outs to secure the victory.
Smith was 4-for-5 and Hackman added two hits to pace the Jackrabbits’ 12-hit attack. Eight of SDSU’s hits came in either the seventh or eighth inning.
Four different players collected two hits apiece for Western Illinois, which also tallied 12 hits as a team.
Leatherneck starter Jace Warkentien struck out four and walked five over 6 1/3 innings in finishing with a no-decision.
- SDSU leads the all-time series against Western Illinois, 37-25, including a 3-2 mark in Summit League tournament games
- The Jackrabbits won the season series against WIU, 5-2
- SDSU has won at least one game at the Summit League Baseball Championship in all 10 of its tournament appearances
- Barnett lowered his earned run average to 1.34, which ranks as the fourth best in a season by a Jackrabbit pitcher (minimum 30 innings)
- Barnett now has 46 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings, giving him 12.30 strikeouts per nine innings pitched – the third-highest ratio in a season in program history
- Mogen pitched a combined 4.2 scoreless innings of relief in the two games on Thursday to decrease his season ERA to 1.67, sixth lowest at SDSU
- Smith upped his career hit total to 195
- Smith drew a pair of walks Thursday to move into sole possession of fourth place in career walks at SDSU with 109, breaking a tie with Zach Briggs (107 from 2009-12)
- Smith’s 44 walks this season are tied with Tony Kjolsing (2018) for the second most in a season by a Jackrabbit player
- Beazley has reached base safely in 20 consecutive games