Minnesota St. wins Central Regional
Eckhart's ninth-inning sac fly plates winning run for Mavericks
MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota State showed why it was the top seed in the Central Regional on Sunday afternoon as MSU defeated St. Cloud State 5-4 in the championship round of the tournament and earned a spot in the eight-team Division II Baseball Championship.
The Huskies jumped ahead early courtesy of the long ball as Brian Hansen’s two-run homer to right-center drove in the first runs of the afternoon giving St. Cloud State a 2-0 lead.
Minnesota State would respond the following inning, tying the score at two, as Lucas Skjefte drew a bases-loaded walk before Nolan Johnson scored the Mavericks’ second run on a wild pitch by St. Cloud State starting pitcher Logan Birr.
The Mavericks took their first lead of the afternoon in the third inning as Jeremy Sudbeck hit a sacrifice fly to right-center which brought in Matt Odegaard who doubled to lead off the inning.
However, the Huskies would match the Mavericks’ production in the bottom of the third as Sean Borman’s single up the middle scored Michael Jurgella, knotting the score at three.
Cory Glieden extended the Mavericks’ lead back to one in the fourth inning as he took third base on a wild pitch before advancing home on a throwing error by St. Cloud State’s catcher Michael Jurgella giving MSU a 4-3 lead.
The back-and-forth game would continue in the fifth inning as the Huskies tied the game at four runs apiece courtesy of an RBI double to left-center by Joey Benke which scored Garrett Fischer who led off the inning with a double.
St. Cloud State would threaten with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the eighth but MSU reliever Bryce Bellin got pinch-hitter Joey Althoff to fly out and keep the score tied setting up another last-inning victory for Minnesota State.
MSU loaded the bases in the top of the ninth as Matt Kuchenbecker and Pat Dockendorf were each walked before Odegaard was hit by a pitch. The Mavericks would score the go-ahead run with the next at-bat as Mike Eckhart recorded a sacrifice fly to score Kuchenbecker to make the score 5-4.
Despite Sudbeck grounding into a double play to end the inning, MSU was able to preserve the lead in the bottom of the ninth as Mahlon Zimmermann retired the Huskies’ final three batters with just three pitches en route to earning his third save of the season.
The win gives Minnesota State a spot in the Division II Baseball Championship which marks the sixth appearance in school history including its second trip in the last three years.
Bellin earned the win on the mound after allowing no runs on just one hit in three innings of relief work for starting pitcher Ben Kincaid. Kincaid lasted five innings after allowing four earned runs on five hits.
The Mavericks were led at the plate by Odegaard, Sudbeck and Johnson who each recorded two hits while Odegaard was named the Central Region Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Odegaard was joined on the Central Region All-Tournament Team by Dockendorf, Kincaid and Tyler Ockuly.