April 28, 2014

Baseball Nipped By Narrowest of Margins, Twice

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (SabreAthletics.com) – It was a disappointing road trip for the Marian University baseball team as it was upended twice by Dominican University, which walked off in consecutive games to complete a Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference sweep at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium, this evening, April 27.

Dominican's Cody Schuster proved to be the thorn in Marian's side as he provided the decisive blow in each contest. The Sabres (15-14, 7-9 NACC) outhit the Stars (20-15, 9-9 NACC) in both games, but were unable to capitalize on some critical scoring opportunities down the stretch. Both sides offered some quality pitching performances, including Sabre sophomore Tanner Biwer's efforts in game two.

The Fish Creek native hadn't allowed a hit through the first five and two-thirds innings of game two before the Stars tripled home a run. Biwer would finish the impressive outing without further damage through six and two-thirds innings, striking out one and walking one to take the hard-luck loss.

In game one, Marian took a 2-0 lead on back-to-back RBI hits by Chad Langley and Tony Grannis in the first inning, but would leave much to be desired as the Sabres left the bases loaded for the first of two occasions.

Dominican put together a three-run rally in the fourth to take a 4-2 advantage, which would remain that way until the eighth inning.

The Sabres, like they did in their comeback win over Benedictine, would put heavy pressure on the opposition by loading the bases. Ty Gellinger, who reached on an error to lead off the frame, made the Stars pay for it as he scored on Grannis' second RBI hit of the day.

Dominican starter Mitch McCaffery would settle down to retire the next three batters to end the threat. Marian's top-five hitters in the lineup combined for all 11 hits, while the bottom four spots went 0-for-15. The Sabres left nine runners on base in the contest.

Trailing 4-3 going into the ninth, the Sabres tied the game on Gellinger's double to left, scoring Cole Miklavcic, who singled with one out in the inning. Both players tallied two hits in the contest and finished with seven hits in the two games combined.

Gellinger would get stranded on second base and it was Dominican's turn to try and answer. With two outs, it was Schuster who would answer the call as he scorched a double down the left field line to score Milne Rojek all the way from first for the game-winner.

In game two, Biwer held the Stars at bay, while his counterpart, Mueller, did the same against the Sabres. Mueller allowed a run on six hits over seven and one-third innings. The lone Sabre run came on a Miklavcic RBI single to short, scoring Trent Keitel, who had come in to pinch run following T.J. McCoy's leadoff double to right field.

Still tied at 1-1, both teams were forced to shut it down through the duration of an hour-and-21-minute rain delay that halted play in the 10th inning.

When play resumed, Dominican had a runner at second base, but Marian reliever Earl Vorpagel made quick work by retiring the final two batters of the inning in four pitches.

A one-out walk to Jordan DeBoer in the top of the 11th didn't amount to anything following two straight force outs. However, in the Dominican half, a fielding error was all the Stars needed to generate just enough to put the Sabres away.

A single followed the error, putting runners at first and second with one, setting up Schuster for another opportunity to play hero. He would come through with his second walk-off hit of the day, an RBI single to left field scoring the winning run.

The Sabres will have an important week ahead of them as they fight for a spot in the NACC Tournament for the first time since 2008. They have a road series at Lakeland Tuesday, April 30, followed by the conference finale at home against Rockford, Saturday, May 3. Next up for Marian will be a non-conference match-up against nearby UW-Oshkosh Monday, April 29, at 5 p.m.