Josh Howard’s RBI double off the right-field fence in the eighth inning broke a 5-5 tie as the University of St. Thomas edged Gustavus Adolphus College, 6-5, for the MIAC Baseball Playoff title.
The Tommies (36-6) won the conference’s post-season event for the fourth time in its five-year existence and pushed UST’s winning streak to 11 games. The seventh-ranked Tommies now advance to the NCAA Division III Championships for the ninth time in 10 seasons under Coach Dennis Denning. It marked the first time in the MIAC regular-season champion has won the MIAC Playoff title.
It marked the sixth consecutive win for St. Thomas over the Gusties in the last two years and the fourth this season. In this year’s four match-ups, all games were decided by two runs or less and two by one run.
The Tommies got another outstanding pitching performance from the tournament’s most valuable player, Brian Krause, as he retired all eight batters he faced in notching his second win of the tournament. In seven and one-third innings in the three tournament games, he allowed one hit and one walk, fanned four and retired 22 of the 24 batters he faced.
The game was scoreless until the fifth when the Tommies posted a pair of runs, using a Howard double, two Gustie errors and a squeeze bunt to lead, 2-0. Gustavus answered right back in the sixth as Tony Konicek slammed a RBI triple off the center-field wall, followed by a Ben Sherer single. The Gusties could have scored more if not for the great play by UST right fielder Howard. Wade Vrieze doubled and moved to third on a bunt single. Trent Larson lifted a fly ball down the line and fairly deep and Wade Vrieze tried to tag up and score, but was gunned down at the plate on a strong throw from Howard and brilliant tag by catcher Goldberg.
The Tommies grabbed the lead back with a three-run sixth, highlighted by run-scoring doubles by Brett Olson and Goldberg and a Howard suicide squeeze bunt. UST couldn’t make the lead hold up, though, as a single, walk and three-run homer by Wade Vrieze promptly tied the game at 5-5.
The homer forced Denning to bring Krause into the game and he shut down the Gustie attack.
Goldberg was 2-for-4 and Howard notched a pair of hits as well for St. Thomas. Wade Vrieze was the lone Gustie with more than one hit. UST starter Ryan Ashner worked five and two-thirds of an inning and departed with a 2-1 lead in the sixth, but the UST bullpen was unable to make it stand.
The Gusties (29-15) set a new school record for wins and earned a spot in the MIAC Playoffs title game for the first time in school history. They won 13 of their final 17 games to reach the MIAC Playoffs for the second time in school history.
(Story courtesy of Eric Sieger, Carleton, Sports Info.)