GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The University of North Dakota baseball team showed once again at the Great West Conference Tournament that how it played during the regular season did not matter much as the seventh-seeded Sioux knocked off their second straight opponent that swept them during conference play on Wednesday night in day two action at Kraft Field.
This time third-seeded Houston Baptist (19-39) was the victim, falling 8-2 to the tournament host, who will play top-seeded Utah Valley on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the right to play in Saturday’s title game. The Sioux (12-33) pounded out 16 hits and shortstop Ryan Gerber (Tucson, Ariz.) had four of those, including a two-out, two-run single in the ninth to stretch out UND’s advantage to its final margin of six.
Junior Jake Magner (Grand Rapids, Minn.) had two hits to become just the third player in Sioux history to reach the 200-hit plateau. He reached the feat with a third-inning single and added a two-run double in the fifth that put UND ahead 3-0.
“This was another huge win for our team,” UND head coach Jeff Dodson said. “It definitely helps to be playing in front of a great home crowd and our guys fed off of that excitement again. We executed in all facets of the game, got more great pitching and our defense played well again. Those things led us to another victory and one step closer to the title game.”
Both starters worked themselves out of jams early on as neither team cracked the scoreboard until the Sioux put up a three-spot in the fifth inning off HBU righthander Kyle Dickerson. Sophomore Riley Beck (Munich, N.D.) got the rally started with a bunt single and raced around to third as the throw by Dickerson was late and ended up down the rightfield line.
Senior Andy Sadler (Grand Forks, N.D.) laced a single through the right side to score Beck for the first run of the game. Sadler’s single also extended his hitting streak to 24 games.
Magner would plate two more runs in the fifth with his 13th double of the season, giving righthander Jake Swift (Phoenix, Ariz.) a cushion to work with. The JUCO-transfer, who let Dodson know via text message late Tuesday night that he wanted the ball in game two, made big pitches throughout the night to escape HBU scoring threats.
The Huskies left two on in each of the first two innings, but could not get anything across on Swift until the sixth. Swift, who scattered eight hits and walked four, was relieved by lefthander Brandon Baumgartner (Coon Rapids, Minn.) with two outs in the sixth. After a walk loaded the bases, the senior induced Collin Hetzler to ground out to second to keep UND in the lead at 3-1.
A sacrifice fly by Zack Trygstad (Wayzata, Minn.) put the Sioux up by three again, but HBU’s Robbie Buller belted a solo home run off Baumgartner in the seventh to make it a two-run contest again. Buller’s blast was his school-record 16th long ball of the season, but it was the only hit the Huskies could get off UND’s all-time leader in appearances.
Baumgartner set the Huskies down in order in both the eighth and ninth innings as the Sioux hitters gave him a little breathing room by padding the lead with four runs in their final at-bat. Junior Daniel Ross (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) settled for a two-run double, but missed a grand slam by only about a foot before Gerber stroke his career-high fourth hit of the game to add two more tallies.
Day three action begins on Thursday at 1 p.m. with the Huskies facing No. 6 seed NJIT in an elimination game. The second-elimination game of the day follows between No. 2 seed Northern Colorado and No. 4 seed NYIT at 4 p.m.
– Go Sioux –