May 24, 2010

Harold Gutmann
Special to NCAA.com

CARY, N.C. -- Southern Indiana's coach and ace pitcher may have both been suspended for the first round of the Division II baseball championships, but the offense was still intact, and that carried the Screaming Eagles to an 8-6 win over Minnesota State in a game that ended at 2:30 Monday morning.

Senior third baseman Wes Fink had run-scoring singles in three straight innings and recorded a career-high five RBI for Southern Indiana (49-13), who held on after allowing five runs in the ninth at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

The original 5 p.m. start time was delayed six hours because of weather delays during the first game of the day, Kutztown's 2-1 win over Franklin Pierce in 12 innings. The Screaming Eagles now play Kutztown Tuesday night at 7 p.m., while Minnesota State meets Franklin Pierce Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament.

Southern Indiana coach Tracy Archuleta had to watch from the stands because Dylan Leach hit a Grand Valley State batter in the Midwest Region final last weekend after both teams had been giving a warning. Leach, who has a 23-2 career record, was given a four-game suspension.

But Golden Eagles pitcher Taylor Dennis (11-1) picked up the slack on the mound, allowing one run in seven innings. Dennis allowed seven hits and walked one, striking out six and lowering his ERA to 4.96.

After starting the season 10-7, Southern Indiana has gone 39-6 in its last 45 games behind an offense that averages 8.8 runs a game. Runs have been hard to come by so far in Cary -- the other three first-round matchups had a total of 11 -- but that didn't seem to effect the Golden Eagles.

Four straight singles to lead off the fourth inning against Bret Mitchell (10-4) helped No. 9 Southern Indiana to a 3-0 lead.

No. 11 Minnesota State (44-15) got one back in the bottom half, but that was answered by an RBI single in the fifth from Fink, who followed that with a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth that made it 7-1.

Down 8-1 in the ninth, the Mavericks actually sent the tying run to the plate with one out.

Zach Rowles and Kosuke Hattori both hit two-run singles, forcing the Screaming Eagles to call on closer Wandy Rosario. Cleanup hitter Danny Miller struck out trying to check his swing, and after Patrick Dockendorf singled to bring up the winning run, Matt Kuchenbecker struck out swinging to finally end the day.

Steven Helget went 4-for-4 with a double for the Mavericks, who were in the tournament for the first time since 1986.

Note: The game didn't start until 11:03 p.m., but NCAA Assistant Director of Championships Russell Yurk said that there was never any a chance of moving it to Monday.

"In tournament baseball, you postpone today, you don't know what tomorrow brings, and pretty soon you're backed up," Yurk said. "The weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday actually looks worse than today's did, so that really was a big factor. And also the way we built the bracket with days off and things like that, typically coaches are more willing to play tonight, knowing they have tomorrow off."

In fact, this wasn't even the latest start time for a tournament game in the two years it's been held at the National Training Center. A semifinal game last year between Lynn and Belmont Abbey started at 11:14 p.m. and didn't end until 2:06 a.m.