The Jackrabbit baseball team has swept a Big-Ten opponent. Check that off the list of noteworthy accomplishments for the team this season.
SDSU (21-11) overcame a one-run deficit in the seventh inning with clutch hitting and quality enough relief pitching, beating Minnesota (14-23) at Erv Huether Field 12-11 on April 20.
The Jacks – playing only their second home game this season – started their offensive attack with a three-run home run by Jesse Sawyer, which landed just over the blue left-center field fence in the first inning. It was the second hit of the Jacks’ 15 in the game, and they would need all of them.
“We’re very confident in our offense,” said shortstop Eric Cain, who raised his batting average to .393 with a four-hit ballgame. “Whoever comes out to play we feel like we can match up really well offensively with them.”
The potent Jacks offense was needed. Starting pitcher Jared Koch struggled in the third inning after two quick and efficient innings. The Golden Gophers gained the lead in the third with five hits – three of them for extra bases – and took a 6-3 lead.
But like other wins for SDSU this season, the Jacks found a way to mount a comeback.
A sacrifice fly in the third by Designated Hitter Zach Rhodes scored Eric Cain tying the game at six, proving to be only half the scoring the Jacks established against the Gopher’s pitching staff.
“As a position player, we love these types of games,” said Cain, a Littleton, Colo., native. “The pitching staff might not. They might have to work a little bit harder … but I feel like this club can swing the bats.”
Bullpen pitchers Alex Oberle and Trever Vermeulen allowed three hits and two earned runs in a combined five innings of relief, allowing SDSU to recapture the lead in the seventh.
“They weren’t at their best today,” said Jacks head coach Ritchie Price about the bullpen’s combined seven walks. “But they kept competing out there and found a way to get out of situations.”
It was the bullpen’s grit that allowed junior Billy Stitz’ two-RBI double in the bottom of the seventh to give the Jacks the lead for good. SDSU would score a run in the eighth on a John Lee single that scored Joel Blake, proving to be the run that clinched the season sweep of Minnesota. Closer Vermeulen allowed an unearned run in the ninth but nothing more in finishing his seventh save of the season.
“It’s a big deal,” said Price. ” I think our players are excited … It’s something to build on for this team and hopefully continues to give us confidence.”
After playing 30 of their first 31 games on the road entering today, the Jacks have some home relief, playing 10 of their last 18 games in Brookings. A come-from-behind victory against a Big-10 team should shore up anticipation for the remaining docket of home games against conference opponents for SDSU.
“We always say, “It’s a beautiful day at The Erv,'” said Cain. “This is the most fun I’ve had this year playing baseball and you can’t beat the atmosphere.”