Missouri S&T's baseball team stood only a few outs away from being forced into a game that it would have needed to win to avoid being the No. 8 seed in this week's Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Tournament.
Instead, the Miners staged a rally to pull out the first game of Monday's doubleheader at Rockhurst 8-5 in 10 innings and completed the sweep with a 6-3 win in game two to move up to the fifth seed for the tournament that will get underway Thursday in Evansville, Ind.
The win in game two, the 10th in the last 11 games for S&T, gave the Miners a closing record of 22-14 in the GLVC, marking the highest win total ever in conference play for them. In addition, it also pushed S&T over the .500 mark for the first time in the 2013 season at 24-23 heading into its first round game against fourth-seeded Saint Joseph's.
Things did not look good for the Miners early in the day, as the Hawks forged a 5-0 after four innings of the opener. Rockhurst got five hits in a six-batter span in the second inning against Nolan Korn to score three times, then added single runs in the third and fourth to take the five-run lead into the fifth.
After Hawk starter Alex Seier got the first out of the fifth, Nick Ulrich got the Miners' first hit of the game with a hit up the middle. That hit suddenly broke the floodgates, as a hit by Kyle Rich followed as did a double by pinch-hitter Tyler Bodenstab to get the Miners on the scoreboard.
Reed Brown followed Bodenstab's hit with a two-run single to cut the lead to 5-3, then with two outs, Lance Portwood delivered a run-scoring single to score Brown, who had stolen second and moved to third on a throwing error.
Seier was pulled after the sixth and the Miners jumped on reliever Matt D'Angelo right off the bat. Rich led off the inning with an infield single and Bodenstab bunted his way on, after which Brown sacrificed the runners to second and third. Will Morrison singled to the opposite field to tie the game and prompt a pitching change by the Hawks.
Zach Loeffelholz, who has primarily been a starter for the Hawks this season, entered the game and got his team out of the inning. In the bottom half, an error and a sacrifice bunt put the winning run on third with one out, but Brown was brought to the mound and he proceeded to strike out Jordan Stull and Anthony Davis to send the game to extra innings.
After missing a chance in the ninth with two on and one out, the Miners finally broke the tie in the 10th. Colin Coan drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second, then after Ulrich walked, Rich got his fourth hit of the game with an opposite field single to drive in Coan with the go-ahead run.
Page 2 of 2 - Later in the inning, Brown drove in two more with his third hit of the contest, then set down the Hawks in order to pick up his third win of the season on the mound.
Despite not getting their first hit until the fifth, the Miners outhit Rockhurst 12-10 in the first game. The Hawks had only one hit – a one-out single by Patrick Chandler in the ninth – over the final six innings against a quartet of S&T relievers.
Rockhurst also took the lead in the second game on Chandler's RBI single in the opening inning, but the Miners tied it in the second when Clint Wobbe walked, stole second and took third on a throwing error and scored on an infield grounder that resulted in an error.
S&T took the lead with three in the third, getting two hits and an error to load the bases to begin the inning. Coan singled in the first run, then Wobbe drove home a run with a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly by Ulrich scored the third run of the frame.
The Miners tacked on runs in the fourth on an RBI hit by Portwood and in the fifth when Ulrich squeezed home Coan to back the pitching of Eric Van Dyke, who held the Hawks to three runs and eight hits over the first six innings. Tom Laudadio entered the game in the seventh and after giving up a pair of hits, got a double play to end the game and pick up his first save.
Rockhurst outhit S&T 10-9 in the second game, as Bodenstab, Portwoood and Coan all had two hits apiece for the Miners.
With Monday's sweep, the Miners finished in third place in the GLVC West Division and earned one of the automatic berths to the tournament. They have not played Saint Joseph's – the second place team in the GLVC East – this season, but swept a doubleheader from the Pumas (29-16, 24-12 GLVC) in Rolla last March.
Thursday's game will begin at 11 a.m., at Evansville's Bosse Field. No. 1 seed Drury and No. 8 Maryville will also play in the games over the first two days at the primary facility for the tournament, while the other four entries - Lewis, Missouri-St. Louis, Bellarmine and Quincy - will play at the University of Southern Indiana.