MSU-Mankato advances to final game for first time, wins 6-5 against St. Edward's
CARY, N.C. -- Junior Jason Hoppe set an NCAA single-season scoreless innings record and Minnesota State-Mankato hung on for a 6-5 victory against St. Edward’s in a seesaw affair Thursday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex, sending the Mavericks to their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship game.
The Mavericks have now won 13 consecutive games and 26 of their last 27 games played.
Hoppe worked out of a jam with the help of sophomore catcher Nolan Johnson in the top of the second inning as St. Edward’s had runners at the corners with two outs and attempted a double steal, but Johnson deked the runner at third with a fake throw to second, catching the Hilltopper in a rundown to end the frame. Hoppe began the top of the third with a strikeout of the SEU centerfielder that stretched his scoreless-inning streak to 54.1 consecutive innings, setting a new NCAA single-season record across all divisions.
The Mavericks provided Hoppe with a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when junior shortstop Todd Standish reached on a leadoff error by junior Ransom LaLonde and advanced to third on a single through the right side by senior second baseman Lucas Skjefte. Then, sophomore third baseman Connor McCallum ripped an RBI double off SEU senior Paul Smith down the right field line plating Standish before Johnson lined into a hard luck double-play to end the inning.
St. Edward’s pushed across a run in the top of the fourth when junior C.J. Manning hit a leadoff single into left field and scored two batters later on freshman Dylan Watts’ RBI single to centerfield, tying the contest at one and snapping Hoppe’s streak at 55.1 innings. But the Mavericks came right back to reclaim the lead in their half of the inning when junior first baseman Stetson Olson belted a solo home run over the scoreboard in right field for his ninth roundtripper of the year.
The see-saw affair continued in the fifth as the Hilltoppers knotted the game at two in the top half of the inning when senior Joe Pirozzolo drew a hit by pitch to lead off the inning. After moving to second on a single through the left side by LaLonde, Pirozzolo stole third and scored on the same play as Johnson’s throw bounced in front of McCallum at third and rolled into left field.
However, MSU had an answer in the bottom half of the frame as Standish drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Next, Skjefte ripped a double that bounced off the wall in left-center field and scored Standish as Skjefte slid into third after a bobble by the SEU centerfielder. One batter later, McCallum ripped an 0-2 pitch past the Hilltopper first baseman plating Skjefte, putting the Purple and Gold up 4-2.
The Hilltoppers responded by loading the bases to begin the top of the sixth inning, which signaled the end of Hoppe’s evening as senior righthander Nick Sutherland came on in relief. After recording a strikeout, Pirozollo took a hit by pitch that brought St. Edward’s within one before sophomore Cutter Runte slapped an RBI single through the right side, scoring Watts and re-tying the game at four.
In the bottom of the seventh, MSU put two runners in scoring position as junior centerfielder Parker Sullivan tagged a leadoff single to right field and Skjefte reached on an infield base hit before both advanced one base on a sacrifice bunt by McCallum. Next, Johnson sat back on a 2-1 breaking ball and ripped a two-run single right back up the middle, scoring both runners and giving the Mavericks a 6-4 lead after seven complete innings.
Sutherland retired all three batters in the eighth before surrendering a leadoff single to Runte in the top of the ninth, prompting a pitching change as senior righthander Mahlon Zimmerman came in from the bullpen. After LaLonde singled through the left side and both runners moved to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, Runte scored on a groundout to second base, but Zimmerman induced a flyout to right field securing the 6-5 win.