St. Thomas dropped a hard-fought 3-2 game to Augsburg Friday in the opening game of the MIAC playoffs in Dundas but bounced back to win the Northfield nightcap 5-0 over St. John’s and stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.
The Tommies (30-7) scored twice in the first inning against the Johnnies and rode the coattails of pitcher Matt Schuld, who set an MIAC career record for wins with 29 in recording the shutout. St. Thomas added two runs in the fifth and one in the eighth to close the scoring.
Earlier Friday, Augsburg won another one-run game over the Tommies after rallying from a 2-1 deficit, and Adam Seaman’s eight-inning homer broke a 2-2 tie. The Auggies went on to defeat Concordia-Moorhead 6-1 Friday night to advance to Saturday’s 5 p.m. title game.
The Tommies, who won the regular-season title, will need to win three games in a row to capture the playoff championship. If they defeat Concordia at 1 p.m. Saturday, they will have to beat Augsburg twice – at 5 p.m. Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday. Al remaining games are in Dundas.
After the win over St. John’s, Coach Chris Olean challenged the Tommies – and especially his seniors – to come out and play their best game on Saturday. “We need you to step up,” he said. “I’m getting tired of guys striking out with players on base. We need more hits.”
Assistant coach Matt Vanderbosch told the hitters that it’s time “to lock in and get hot. You’re giving away too many at-bats,” he said, “especially with runners in scoring position.”
That situation stung St. Thomas several times on Friday, but most painfully in the Augsburg game. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Matt McQuillan led off for the Tommies with his third single of the game, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly. But the next two batters grounded out and struck out, stranding McQuillan – the tying runner – at third.
While the Tommies struggled at the plate with only 14 hits on the day, they excelled in the field, turning three double plays in the first game and two in the second. Shortstop Roy Larson and second baseman John Bauer came up with several fielding gems against St. John’s, each ranging behind second base to snag grounders and throw out the runners.
“Defensively, we were outstanding,” Olean said, “and we have enough pitching. We have to be more consistent offensively. It’s been the same story all season long.