Green Knights Face Long Road Back at MWC Tournament

From Sports Information Director, May 8, 2009 | Baseball
by Dan Lukes, dan.lukes@snc.edu, (920) 403-4077

DE PERE - St. Norbert College faces a daunting, but not impossible, task ahead of it if it wishes to claim the 2009 Midwest Conference Baseball Championship. The Green Knights must win three games Saturday to win the league title and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament.

St. Norbert (22-11) beat Grinnell College in its tournament opener 9-8 before losing to Beloit College 6-3 at Mel Nicks Field. The Green Knights face Monmouth College at 10 a.m. Saturday in an elimination game, with the winner needing to beat Beloit twice to steal the title. Knox College swept three games on the tournament's final day in 2008, beating St. Norbert and twice topping Ripon College, to claim the championship.

Beloit (27-7) led from start to finish, taking a 3-2 lead before putting the game away with three runs in the seventh inning. Beloit led 2-0 before St. Norbert scored in the fourth when Tony Jandron's RBI groundout scored Brett Birkholz. The Buccaneers scored once in the fifth but St. Norbert answered back in the sixth on Jandron's RBI single to scored Jared Yost.

The Buccaneers broke the game open with three in the bottom of the seventh, after a routine double play ball was erred that could have potentially ended the inning. St. Norbert scored once in the ninth on Matt Hannon's RBI groundout, but couldn't get any closer.

Beloit pitchers did not walk a batter in the game and the Bucs' defense did not commit and error until the ninth inning. Mike Kovach picked up the win, allowing eight hits in six innings. Alex Norman got the save with three hitless innings of relief.

Justin Wotachek took the loss for St. Norbert, allowing 10 hits and five walks and 6.1 innings. Yost was 3-for-4 for the Green Knights' only multi-hit game.

Against Grinnell, St. Norbert rallied with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to escape with the first-round win. The teams combined for 28 hits and left 27 total runners on base in a game that lasted 2 hours 54 minutes.

Grinnell led 4-1 after three innings but St. Norbert would scored twice in the fourth and sixth and once in the fifth for a 6-4 lead. Ryan Kehl's RBI double in the second got St. Norbert on the board. Yost's smash to third base got past the Grinnell third baseman for an error to score a run in the fourth, and Jandron's sacrifice fly cut it to 4-3. Birkholz drove in Kehl with a single in the fifth, and Garrick Fisher's two-run single in the sixth gave St. Norbert a brief lead.

Grinnell scored three runs on four hits in the seventh, doing all the damage after two outs with no one on. The Pioneers could have extended their lead, but left the bases loaded. Grinnell added a run in the top of the eighth for an 8-6 lead.

Kehl's RBI groundout scored Cory Fuller in the eighth to make it 8-7, and Ryan Gusick's double to left-center drove in Fisher for an 8-8 game. Following a walk, Brandon Hintz's slow roller on the left side was thrown out of play to bring home Gusick and the game's decisive run.

Jandron pitched 2.1 innings of five-hit relief to earn the win, while Grinnell's Ben Pope got the oss in relief. Jandron was 3-for-4 for St. Norbert, while Fisher was 3-for-5 and Birkholz was 3-for-6. Kehl added a 2-for-5 showing for St. Norbert, which had 15 hits.