Gonzalez Hurls ORU Past South Dakota State in Summit Tourney
The win, ORU’s 35th straight Summit League Tournament victory, puts the Golden Eagles (35-20) one win away from their 14th straight tournament championship. ORU will face either South Dakota State or North Dakota State at 11 a.m. on Sunday, with an “if necessary” game to follow at 2:30 p.m. should ORU lose the opener.
Gonzalez matched teammate Drew Bowen, who opened tournament play on Thursday for ORU by tossing a complete game in a 12-0 win over Western Illinois. Gonzalez, the League Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year, allowed one run on three hits and four walks. During one stretch between the first and third innings, Gonzalez struck out six consecutive batters.
ORU opened the scoring in the first, in unconventional fashion. Joey Winiecki led off with a double and moved to third on a fly out by Nick Baligod. After Chris Elder, he and Winiecki pulled off a double steal, with Winiecki crossing home plate just ahead of the throw and giving ORU a 1-0 lead.
The Golden Eagles stretch their lead to 3-0 in the second. Jared Schlehuber led off with a single and T.J. Bennett followed with a walk. Bennett Pickar sacrificed the runners over and Spencer Barnett connected for an RBI single to make it 2-0.
Barnett, however, got caught in a rundown between first and second, allowing Bennett to score the second run and extend the lead to three.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, was cruising. After retiring Beau Hanowski on a grounder to start the game, Gonzalez struck out – in order – Billy Stitz, Joel Blake, Zach Rhodes, Andrew Phelan, Eric Cain and Jesse Sawyer.
The Jackrabbits finally got to Gonzalez in the third when Andrew Melton connected for a one-out solo home run on a 3-2 fastball, cutting the lead to 3-1.
But that was all SDSU could muster against Gonzalez. The jackrabbits threatened again in the sixth when Rhodes doubled with two outs and ORU leading 3-1. Phelan followed with a single to left, but left fielder Chris Elder gunned down Rhodes at the plate to end the threat and the inning. SDSU managed just one base runner the rest of the game.
ORU broke the game open in the seventh. Cam Schiller had a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 and Schlehuber connected for a long three-run homer for a 7-1 lead.
The Golden Eagles finished with 10 hits. Schiller finished 3-for-4 with an RBI, and Winiecki, Schlehuber and Barnett each had two hits.
Alex Oberle (4-5) went the distance for the Jackrabbits, allowing seven runs (three earned) on 10 hits with four walks and five strikeouts.