FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) – It was a healthy dose of offense, defense and pitching that propelled the Marian University baseball team to a much-needed sweep over rival Lakeland College and inching it closer to a Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference tournament berth in the process as the Sabres took down the Muskies by scores of 10-0 and 9-5, at Herr-Baker Field, this evening, May 2.
The Sabres (17-15, 9-9 NACC) pounded out 14 hits in each victory and registered 28 runs on the day. They control their own fate, needing only a split against Rockford at home tomorrow to clinch their first NACC Tournament berth since 2008.
Senior Sam Forkert (3-2) stole the show in game one, hurling a one-hit shutout. With 10 strikeouts in the winning effort, the Sister Bay native moved just seven punch outs away from tying Jason Bunton ('05) for the career strikeout record which currently stands at 190.
Offensively, sophomore Cole Miklavcic paced Marian with seven hits in 11 at-bats. He scored three runs in game one before adding four RBIs and a run scored in the nightcap. Junior Ryan Blise also put together impressive back-to-back performances with a 5-for-7 combined effort, including a 2-for-3 game one with two runs scored and three RBIs.
In game one, Miklavcic set the tone with a double to deep center and his teammates proceeded to send eight batters to the plate for a four-run top of the first. Marian would score in each of the first three frames to take a commanding 6-0 edge.
The doubleheader between the Sabres and Muskies (11-26, 3-15 NACC) had been postponed three times previously and was supposed to be hosted by Lakeland. It was agreed upon that Herr-Baker Field was the only field fit to play on and so the Muskies served as the home team on Marian's home field for both games.
The Muskies struggled to get any offensive momentum against Forkert. The Marian left-hander breezed through the Musky lineup with a no-hitter intact through the first 4 2/3 innings until Logan Karse slapped a single through the right side, just outside the reach of Chase Eagan at second base.
Forkert wasn't rattled, though, as he set down the final seven batters he faced, including four by way of the strikeout and closed out the win in seven innings due to mercy rule.
The Sabres would add five more runs to take a 6-0 advantage in the third, capped by Miklavcic's two-out, two-run single to center.
Junior Bryce Taylor (2-1) cruised through the first two frames, picking up right where Forkert left off. In the bottom of the third, the Muskies found some momentum with three runs on just one hit. Lakeland capitalized off two walks, a balk and two wild pitches. The lone hit of the frame came on a Justin Willman RBI single to make it 6-3.
Taylor and the Sabres would answer back with a run in the fifth and another in the eighth to push the margin to 8-3. In the bottom of the eighth, the Muskies scored twice on a trio of hits off of the oft-reliable Austin Hansen.
With one out and runners at second and third, Head Coach Jason Bartelt went to his bullpen and was rewarded with an outstanding effort from junior Brett Barger, who got the first batter he faced, Brady Callahan, to foul out to first on the first pitch he threw. He then got the No. 3 hitter Tim Kuchenbecker to groundout to short to end the inning.
Miklavcic registered his fifth hit of the game in the form of an RBI single to right center to give Marian another insurance tally and Barger came back out and closed out the game for his first save of the season.
The Sabres will have a quick turnaround as they play host to the Regents (18-16, 8-10 NACC) in the conference finale at Herr-Baker Field tomorrow, May 3. In order to clinch its first conference tournament berth since 2008, Marian needs at least a split. A lot is also riding for Rockford as it needs a doubleheader sweep to clinch.
First pitch is set for noon. Live stats, video and audio will be provided for both games through SabreAthletics.com.