Kris Kwak (Maple Grove, Minn.) redeemed himself in storybook fashion on Saturday at Kraft Field as his walkoff home run lifted North Dakota to a doubleheader sweep of Chicago State. UND defeated the Cougars 10-6 in the opening game and had squandered a five-run lead in game two before Kwak’s heroics provided the 10-8 victory in the nightcap.Grand Forks, N.D. — Sophomore
Kwak’s redemption was necessary because the Sioux second baseman had made a fielding error only moments before in the eighth inning that cost UND (6-23, 4-8 GWC) two runs and a late lead as the Cougars (6-31, 2-11 GWC) clawed all the way back to even things at 8-8.
After a quick pep talk from head coach Jeff Dodson in between innings, Kwak came to the plate with one on and one out, then drilled a 1-0 offering from CSU reliever Jose Leon deep over the rightfield fence.
“It was the same pitch he had just thrown to me in the dirt,” Kwak said. “I recognized the spin on it right away and put a good swing on it.”
The two-run blast, which was Kwak’s third of the season, gave the Sioux their first Great West Conference series win of the season and also allowed a stellar relief effort by junior Cory Baker (Byron Center, Mich.) to hold up for his initial UND victory.
"Baseball is a game that gives you opportunities to make up for your mistakes and Kris did that in a big way today," Dodson said. "We talked a little bit between innings and I told him not to let that carry over into his at-bat because we needed him focused on the task at hand. He delivered in a big way and this will give him and our club a lot of confidence moving forward."
Baker actually pitched superbly out of the bullpen in both games of the doubleheader, earning the save in game one before dialing up seven strikeouts in five innings of relief in game two. He fanned nine in 6.2 innings of total work in the sweep.
He entered the game in the fifth with the bases loaded and nobody out, replacing starter Derek Biermaier (Roseau, Minn.). By the end of the frame, the Cougars had managed to piece together four runs on three hits, two walks, an error and a sacrifice fly to close within a tally at 7-6.
The only other trouble Baker encountered was in the eighth when after retiring the first two Cougars, he allowed back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases. The righthander appeared to get out the jam and preserve an 8-6 lead when Weston Lewis hit a sharp groundball straight to Kwak, but he misplayed it, allowing Tony Sanchez to race around from second to even things up.
Leon was in his sixth inning of relief by the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around and to that point had only yielded an unearned run and three hits to a Sioux offense, which had touched up starter Shane McGarahan for seven runs in the first three innings.
Senior Jake Magner (Grand Rapids, Minn.) promptly laced the first pitch he saw from Leon into center for a leadoff single to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Leon then had to face UND’s hottest hitter in Josh Ray, but the side-arming righthander was the only CSU pitcher to contain the Sioux leftfielder during the weekend.
Ray hit the ball hard again, but this time it was right at Albert Carpen in centerfield, who snagged the line drive for the first out. That set the stage for Kwak’s game-winning shot down the rightfield line.
Early on it looked as if the Sioux would not need any late-inning heroics after scoring six second-inning runs off McGarahan. It was the highest-scoring frame of the season for the Sioux as junior Seth Means (Gillette, Wyo.) jump-started a two-out rally with a double. After two more hits, shortstop Ryan Gerber (Tucson, Ariz.) capped the inning by driving a two-run homer over the rightfield fence.
Ray was hitless in his three at-bats against Leon, but went 12-for-15 against the rest of the CSU staff to finish the weekend 12-for-18 at the plate. He had multiple hits in all four games and was the offensive hero again in game one, going 3-for-5 with a trio of RBI.
In the opener, Ray’s two-run single in the first put the Sioux quickly ahead and his RBI-double in the third broke a 2-2 tie. It would be a lead UND would not surrender the rest of the way.
Kwak tripled and scored in a two-run sixth inning that saw the Sioux extend their advantage to 6-4. He finished the day 3-for-8 with three RBI and three runs scored.
After the Cougars pulled to within a run at 6-5 in the top of the seventh, UND added two more runs in its half of the frame and tacked on two more in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Baker relieved starter David Spies (Grand Forks, N.D.), who logged a season-high 7.1 innings to pick up his first win of the campaign, in the eighth and struck out three in 1.2 innings of work to notch his first save of the season.
Catcher Zack Trygstad (Wayzata, Minn.) had four RBI in the doubleheader, driving home a pair of runs in each contest. Senior Craig Dolmage (Grants Pass, Ore.) started the second game and went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in his first action of the series.
– Go Sioux –
Kwak’s walkoff homer gives Sioux series win over Chicago State
Courtesy: Ryan Powell, UND Media Relations