Late-Inning Heroics Lift Golden Eagles to Doubleheader Sweep of Southern Utah
The victories kept ORU (31-20, 19-7) tied atop the Summit League standings with South Dakota State with two games remaining for each team.
In the opener, ORU needed an eighth inning comeback to tie the game and got some help from Southern Utah (24-29, 11-14) in the ninth to get the win.
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Joey Winiecki started the rally for ORU with a one-out single off James Crockett. After Winiecki stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by the catcher, Chris Elder lined a run-scoring single to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Jared Schlehuber next lined a single to right field, which eluded Mitchell Kauweloa for an error, allowing Elder to score to cut the margin to 5-4. Schleuhuber made it all the way to third base as catcher Taylor Shaw misplayed the relay throw in an attempt to get Elder at home.
Schiller plated pinch-runner Graham McIntyre with a sacrifice fly to knot the score at 5-5. The rally ended when Brandon King, who followed Schiller’s sac fly with a double, was thrown out trying to score on a base hit by Brett Sowers.
After reliever Matt Rush (2-3) set down the Thunderbirds in order in the top of the ninth, ORU went back to work on offense. SUU reliever Jesse Hartle relieved Crockett and hit lead-off batter Bennett Pickar to put the go-ahead run at first. Spencer Barnett sacrificed pinch runner Mark Guest to second, and Guest advanced to third on a fly out by Nick Baligod.
With Winiecki batting, Guest scored the winning run on a wild pitch, giving ORU a 6-5 victory.
Game two was a pitcher’s duel between ORU’s Alex Gonzalez and Southern Utah’s Justin Neubauer (1-4). Gonzalez struck out 10 in nine shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks. Neubauer went the distance, allowing the game’s only run on five hits while striking out five.
After going scoreless for the originally scheduled seven innings, the game continued to be without a run until the bottom of the tenth.
Elder led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Schlehuber. Schiller stepped up with one out and fought back from an 0-2 deficit and lined a 1-2 pitch into the left field corner, easily scoring Elder with the winning run.
Gonzalez was magnificent for ORU, facing the minimum number of batters through the first five innings. The freshman right-hander struck out at least one batter in each of the first four innings, and two each in the sixth and eighth innings.
His only real trouble came in the ninth when he allowed a one-out walk and an infield single to consecutive batters. After a wild pitch moved runners to second and third, shortstop Schiller gunned down the potential go-ahead run at the plate on a slow roller for the second out and Gonzalez ended the threat by getting Kauweloa to line out to left field.
Rush (3-3) picked up his second win of the day by tossing another perfect inning of relief, this time in the tenth.
ORU was limited to just five hits in the nightcap, with Elder going 2-for-4 to lead the way.
ORU and Southern Utah are scheduled to play game three of their series at 2 p.m., Friday, weather permitting.