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Cougars Notch Critical Split With Winona State

Derek Fischer, University of Sioux Falls Cougars
University of Sioux Falls

WINONA, MN — The University of Sioux Falls baseball team (19-23, 13-13 NSIC) bounced back from an embarrassing 11-1 defeat in game one to knock off Winona State (21-14, 15-6) 5-4 in 10 innings to earn a critical split on Saturday afternoon in Winona, Minn.

With the split, USF is still in the hunt for a berth in the NSIC postseason tournament. The Cougars are in ninth place with two games left to play in the regular season while the Warriors stand in fourth place in the standings. The top eight teams qualify for the tournament, which will be contested next weekend in St. Cloud.

WINONA STATE 11, USF 1
The opener couldn’t get over fast enough for USF, as the Warriors plated four in the top of the first before dropping a six-run bomb in the third that chased Cougar righty Eric Brothers (3-5) and set the Cougars’ revolving bullpen door spinning. A total of five USF pitchers saw action in the final three-and-a-third innings.

Meanwhile, Winona starter Mike Wasilik (3-4) threw one-run ball over four innings before making way for two Winona relievers who combined to two-hit the Cougars across the final three frames.
USF scored its only run in the bottom of the fourth when Kelby Beste drove home Damian Kardas, who had reached on an error by the shortstop.

The Cougars tallied six hits, one each by Beste, Zach Ireland, Jeremy Varner, Danny Hughes, Clayton Kibbie and Ryan Fobes.

Brothers allowed 10 runs on six hits, walked five and struck out four.

USF 5, WINONA STATE 4 (10)
In game two, Sioux Falls starter Noah Coleman recovered from a rocky start to hold the Warriors at bay through seven innings before handing the ball to Derek Fischer (4-8), who mixed a hard fastball with a devastating slider to shut Winona State down for the final three frames to notch his fourth win of 2013.

It was a scoreless pitchers’ duel at the start highlighted by sparkling defensive plays and a litany of strikeouts. Both pitchers faced the minimum through two before inadequate fielding paved the way for the Warriors in the third, as they put runners at the corners with no outs after consecutive shortstop errors. The shortstop made up for it the best he could on the next two plays by turning a double play and followed with an inning-ending 6-3 but the leading runner scored to give Winona the early 1-0 advantage.

The Warriors doubled their lead with a solo homer in the fourth and then roughed up Coleman for two runs on four hits in the fifth to go in front 4-0.

Kelby Beste halted the shut-out in the fifth with a solo shot to center on a 0-1 count for his fifth home run of the season.

Coleman settled to hold the Warriors to two hits over the next two frames before his teammates picked him up with a three-run sixth inning. Seniors Zach Ireland and Corey Vasquez opened with back-to-back hits that manufactured the first score before classmates Damian Kardas and Keith Cutler followed with a single and sacrifice to set the table for Beste, who hit a clutch two-run double to tie the game at 4-all.

Fischer relieved Coleman in the eighth and neither team scored in the final two innings to send the game to extras. Fischer sent the Warriors down 1-2-3 with three straight fly-outs in the top of the 10th to set the stage for more senior heroics. Freshman Trevor Crow got things started with a one-out pinch hit single off WSU reliever Scott Freiburger and Vasquez whacked a line-drive to right field to move Crow over to third. Kardas saved one of the biggest at-bats of his five year Cougar career when it was needed the most and pushed in Crow from third with a ground-out to second base to give USF the 5-4 walk-off victory.

Coleman allowed four runs on nine hits, walked one and fanned four in seven innings. Fischer tossed the final three frames and was spectacular in long relief, holding the Warriors to one hit with one walk and struck out three.

Beste went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored to pace the Cougars at the plate. Seven of the Cougars eight remaining hits came off the bats of seniors. Vasquez finished 3-for-4 with one run batted in and a run scored while Kardas tallied two hits, including the game-winner. Cutler and Ireland each had a hit.

USF and Winona State will conclude the regular season Sunday with a double-header slated to begin at noon at Loughrey Field in Winona. In order to qualify for the NSIC tournament, the Cougars must sweep Winona State and Bemidji State must drop both ends of a double-header to regular season champion St. Cloud State.

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Courtesy:  University of Sioux Falls

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