A wild pitch in the bottom of the 12th inning allowed Trooper Reynolds to score the game-winning run from third base, as DBU won 4-3 over Missouri State in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Indiana. In a game that became a battle of the bullpens, the Patriots’ Sean Stutzman closed the door on the Bears over the final two innings and DBU (41-18) came out on top, as the Patriots clinched the automatic bid to an NCAA Regional with a dramatic win over Missouri State (38-21) in 12 innings.
It was a short outing for Patriot starter MD Johnson as the freshman lasted only 1.2 innings before being lifted for Dalton Higgins. Johnson pitched around a couple baserunners in the first inning and allowed two runs in the second, one on a solo homerun and another on an RBI double. Higgins wiggled out of the inning with no further damage by inducing a groundout to second base to end the frame.
In the third, the Patriot offense showed signs of life. Daniel Sweet led off the inning with a single and David Martinelli followed with a walk. One out later, with the runners on second and third thanks to an error and a wild pitch, Darick Hall singled into deep right field to tie the game at two apiece.
After a scoreless fourth, Missouri State got back on the board in part to a fortuitous hop in the infield. After a two-out walk, Jeremy Eierman hit a routine groundball to Trooper Reynolds that should have ended the inning but the ball hit a seam in the artificial turf and bounded over the head of the Patriot second baseman and into right field. That put runners on the corners and MSU catcher Eduardo Castro needed no help, as his double to left field just eluded the leaping glove of Sweet to put the Bears ahead by a run in the fifth inning.
That lead lasted for two outs into the bottom of the inning as Martinelli and Listi both walked to put two aboard for Hall and the first baseman delivered again, this time with a single to center to tie the score at three. That is where it would remain, as the game became a battle of the bullpens into the late innings.
For the Patriot bullpen in the middle innings, Dalton Higgins allowed a single run in 3.2 innings pitched, Gavin Fritzstruck out one of the two batters he faced, and Landon Wilson threw two innings, allowing only a lone double with two outs in the 8th inning. With that runner on second, the lefthander handed the ball to closer Seth Elledge who induced a first pitch fly ball from Jake Burger to send the game to the bottom of the inning.
The Patriots threatened with baserunners in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, but were not able to push the winning run across. Their most serious threat came in the bottom of the ninth as Jameson Hannah roped a ball to centerfield with two outs and a man on, but Hunter Steinmetz made an incredible catch crashing up against the wall to send the game to extra innings.
The Bears’ tenth inning was a high stress inning for Elledge. After a leadoff double, a groundout moved the go-ahead run to third with only one out. With the infield drawn in, and after a long battle at the plate, the closer induced a groundball right at Luke Stratman at second to prevent the runner from trying the score. That brought Aaron Meyer to the plate, who had four hits on the night, and he also fought for a long at-bat, fouling off several pitches, before punching out on an elevated 3-2 fastball.
Meyer was the last batter faced by Elledge, as Sean Stutzman came on for a quick eleventh inning. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Martinelli singled to right center, and with Martinelli on first, Listi hit a long fly ball to left center for the second out of the inning, before Hall walked to put the winning run at second. Hall walked and the Hannah struck another ball well, but it was right at the shortstop to send the game to the twelfth inning with Stutzman on the mound.
After Stutzman retired the Bears in order in the top of the 12th, Missouri State reliever Bryan Young was lifted after throwing his 79th pitch of the game. The Bears’ Ryan Dunne inherited a 2-0 count with Trooper Reynolds at the plate and eventually walked the Patriots’ lead-off hitter on a 3-2 pitch. Reynolds would then advance to second on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Duce.
Following a walk to Camden Duzenack and a bunt by Luke Stratman that put runners at second and third, Daniel Sweet stepped to the plate with two outs and the winning run 90 feet away. Down in the count 1-2, Dunne’s breaking ball in the dirt got away from Bears’ catcher Eduardo Castro and Reynolds raced home from third, sliding in feet first with the game-winning run as Castro struggled to locate the baseball.
The DBU Baseball team will travel to Lubbock, Texas, as the No. 2 seed at the Lubbock Regional hosted by Texas Tech University as announced by the NCAA selection committee. DBU (41-17) will face the University of New Mexico (38-21), the No. 3 seed, on Friday night at Rip Griffin Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Texas Tech (41-16) earned the No. 1 seed and will take on No. 4 seed Fairfield (32-24) on Friday at 2:00 p.m.
This year’s trip to the Lubbock Regional marks the third straight year in which DBU has advanced to the field of 64, making them just one of 17 teams from across the nation to make three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Since joining the Division I ranks in 2004, the Patriots are making their fifth appearance in the NCAA postseason in the last six seasons (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016). DBU’s first NCAA Regional appearance came during the 2008 season.
The NCAA Regionals consist of 16 four-team brackets in a double-elimination format, held June 3-6. The winners from each Regional advance to the Super Regionals the following weekend, which features a best-of-three game series. The winners from each of the eight Super Regionals earn a ticket to the College World Series, held in Omaha, Nebraska, June 18-29.
Click here to access this year’s NCAA Division I Baseball Championship bracket.
DBU HEAD COACH DAN HEEFNER ON WINNING THE MVC TOURNAMENT TITLE
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and the character and heart they showed. We talk about winning championships and for this team to win the regular season and now the tournament title is a great accomplishment for our program.”
THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
MVC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
1B – Justin Paulsen, Missouri State
2B – Aaron Meyer, Missouri State
3B – Jake Burger, Missouri State
SS – Camden Duzenack, Dallas Baptist
C – Matt Duce, Dallas Baptist
UT – Darick Hall, Dallas Baptist
DH – Luke Mangieri, Bradley
OF – Spencer Johnson, Missouri State
OF – Josh Jyawook, Evansville
OF – Tony Rosselli, Indiana State
P – Sam Perez, Missouri State
P – Colin Poche, Dallas Baptist
Most Outstanding Player:
Spencer Johnson, Missouri State