The St. Ambrose University campus was celebrating "last blast'' festivities this weekend as the school year winds down.|
So it was only appropriate that the Fighting Bees' baseball team came down to its last blast on Saturday with the Midwest Collegiate Conference regular-season title on the line against Mount Mercy.
In a dramatic finish, the Fighting Bees scored twice in the bottom of the 10th inning to pull out a thrilling 10-9 victory over the Mustangs to grab a share of the MCC crown with Grand View. Both SAU and GVU finished the league race at 16-8. However, the 24-24 Bees earned the top seed for next week's MCC Tournament by virtue of sweeping Grand View (24-27) in their season series.
The victory allowed the Bees to celebrate their worst-to-first ascension in the league and first conference title since 2008. It also made amends for being swept by the Mustangs on Friday when the Bees had just four hits in 14 innings.
"We're as happy as can be,'' said freshman Matt Rosenberger, who scored the winning run, and enjoyed a 6-for-6, four-run day.
Of course, Rosenberger was in the heart of the winning rally. Pinch-hitter Connor Kretz drew a leadoff walk in the 10th off Abraham Carrasco, the pitcher who one-hit the Bees on Friday and was in for his first inning of relief in the winner-take-all showdown at Modern Woodmen Park. An out later, Rosenberger ripped a double off the wall in right-center that left runners at second and third when Kretz had to make sure the ball fell with the outfielder playing almost at the warning track.
Scott Blanchette (3-for-6, two RBIs) then came up and dribbled an RBI single through the left side of the infield to score Kretz and knot the score.
No. 9 hitter Tom Prior then came up and lifted a fly ball to short left field. Rosenberger never hesitated on the tag and beat the throw home, allowing the Bees to start their "last-blast'' celebration.
"We knew we were going to get it done, especially when we started to get some hits together and score some runs,'' said Rosenberger, who led SAU's 18-hit attack. "We've been doing that all season, coming from behind almost every game. We knew we could do it.''
The Bees were able to rally from a 5-0 deficit after 2.5 innings thanks in part to Davenport's J Golden, who was 3-for-6 with three RBIs. The Bees stayed alive with Tyler Gilles's leadoff homer in the eighth to tie the game at 8.
SAU also benefited from a career effort from relief pitcher Tom Samansky (2-1). Another freshman, the lefty threw 6.2 innings of four-hit ball, allowing just one earned run in his longest outing of the season.
"All I talked about in the pregame stuff was `make the big play when it needs to be made,''' said SAU coach Jim Callahan. "Time and time throughout that game, we did. They could have packed it in at any time early in that game and they didn't.''
- BHC wins Arrowhead title: The Black Hawk Braves clinched their fourth straight Arrowhead Conference baseball title and the 23rd in program history with a 10-3, 7-5 sweep of Carl Sandburg. Eann Cox (2-1) and Alex Ott (4-2) checked Sandburg on four and seven hits, respectively. Charlie Dennehy drove in three runs for the Braves (36-7, 17-1 Arrowhead) in the opener and Alex Slaby drove in three in the nightcap.
``I'm very proud of my guys; it was a tremendous job by the players,'' said BHC coach Arnie Chavera. ``We strive to win conference every year and it was nice to do that again – 17-1 is a great record.''
- Augie sweeps IWU: with 9-5 and 4-3 (10 innings) road victories over Illinois Wesleyan, the Augustana Vikings (23-12, 10-8 CCIW) moved into a three-way tie for third place in the jumbled CCIW race. Augie trails only North Park (25-10, 10-6 CCIW) and Elmhurst (18-15, 9-7 CCIW) in the league and is tied with IWU (23-12) and Wheaton (21-15) as the teams battle for the crown and top four spots to be in the conference tourney. In the opener, Augie scored in each of the first six innings in a game Jacob VanDuyne, Jeremy Juhl and Mike Barker (three RBIs) each had three hits from the top three spots in the batting order. Augie pounded out 17 hits in the opener and followed it with 13 in the nightcap. Kyle Lenihan led Augie with three hits in Game 2 and drove in the winning run in the 10th as Juhl and Barker each added two. Augie scored twice in the eighth to tie the nightcap. Reliever Josiah Martin (4-1) was the winner in Game 2 after throwing 1.1 innings of relief of winner Seth Davis (3-1) and Ben Heaton in the opener.
- Augie splits: In an attempt to secure a top-four league finish and a spot in the upcoming CCIW Tournament, the Augustana Vikings didn't help themselves with a split against North Central. Augie (25-11, 6-6 CCIW and in fourth place) beat the Cardinals 3-1 in the opener, but dropped the nightcap 4-1 when NCC scored three times in the sixth inning. Augie closes out league play today, hosting Millikin (20-16, 7-5) at 1 p.m.
In the opener, former Rock Island standout Jillian Gibbs smacked a two-out, three-run homer in the fifth to give the Vikes all the offense pitcher Sarah Hintz (15-3) needed as she scattered five hits. Augie out-hit NCC in the nightcap 10-7, but it wasn't enough as Courtney Ledezma (8-6) took the loss.
- SAU splits at MCC Tourney: The St. Ambrose Queen Bees split their first two games of pool play in the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament's pod in Oskaloosa, Iowa. No. 6-seeded SAU opened with a 5-2 victory over No. 9-seeded Clarke, but dropped a 9-0 game to hosting top-seed William Penn in a game shortened to six innings. The Queen Bees (28-26) are scheduled to play Clarke again at 11 this morning in an elimination game with the winner facing William Penn at 1:15 for the right to advance.