May 21: St. Thomas 7, Carthage 5

Tommies stay alive in NCAA regional playoffs

WHITEWATER, Wis. – St. Thomas rallied from a one-run deficit to defeat Carthage 7-5 Friday afternoon and stay alive in the NCAA Midwest Regional tournament.

The Tommies (35-8) advance to play another elimination game, scheduled to start at 4:25 p.m. Friday, against UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks lost earlier Friday, 12-4, to UW-Stevens Point.

If St. Thomas defeats Whitewater, it then would have to beat Stevens Point twice on Saturday to claim the regional crown and advance to the national tournament May 28-June 1 in Appleton, Wis.

Friday’s win was the 11th consecutive elimination victory for St. Thomas in NCAA and MIAC playoff games going back to last May’s Midwest regional tournament.

The Tommies grabbed a 4-0 lead over Carthage in the first inning. Matt McQuillan singled, Matt Olson reached on an error and Tom Wipler hit a three-run homerun. The next batter, Roy Larson, also homered.

Carthage battled back, scoring five runs on six hits in the bottom of the fourth off St. Thomas starter Matt Nelson, who came into the game with a 6-0 record and a 1.36 ERA.

“I had trouble hitting my spots most of the day,” Nelson said after the game. “Too many balls ended up over the plate, and they (Carthage hitters) found some holes. I just plugged away and felt better in the later innings.”

Wipler tied the game in the fifth inning on a solo homerun to center field – his seventh homer of the year and fifth since last Saturday, when he hit three in MIAC playoff wins over Concordia-Moorhead and Augsburg.

“I’m just seeing the ball really well right now,” Wippler said of the two homeruns, which came on fastballs from Carthage starter Scott Danley.

The Tommies took the lead in the sixth when Olson knocked in John Bauer with a single to left. They added an insurance run in the ninth when Chuck Bruchu singled, stole second, went to third on a groundout and came home on a Brady Field single.

Nelson lasted until two outs in the eighth inning, when he gave up a walk and single. Brandon Stone relieved and loaded the bases with a walk but induced a groundout to escape the inning. He retired the first two Red Men in the ninth, issued a walk and got the final out on a grounder.

“We knew that game wouldn’t be easy,” Coach Chris Olean told his players. “Carthage tested us.”

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