By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
The tying run was on second with two outs in the ninth.
The Minnesota Duluth hitter chopped one over the mound, and shortstop Todd Standish bobbled the wet ball. His throw to first was up the line, and Matt Odegaard couldn’t handle it cleanly.
But the Minnesota Duluth runner hesitated around third boefore heading for home as Odegaard scrambled after the ball. He picked it up, turned and threw a strike to catcher Nolan Johnson, who lunged at the runner to make the tag for the final out.
A 6-5 win, with a little extra excitement.
“It would have been a bang-bang play; I probably should have caught (the throw),” said Odegaard, a senior. “(Bad throws are) something I don’t do often. I take a lot of pride in my defense. I knew I had to hustle and make a good throw.”
The top-seeded Mavericks (40-9) struggled with the sixth-seed Bulldogs in the opening round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference baseball tournament Wednesday at Franklin Rogers Park. The Mavericks didn’t lead until the bottom of the eighth inning, and the victory wasn’t secure until the final out.
“Any time we get 15 hits, I like our chances,” Mavericks manager Matt Magers said. “But we made a couple of errors, we allowed a couple 0-2 hits. Little things cost us tonight. But ultimately, you want to win and move one, and we’ll be back (today).”
After the Mavericks allowed two unearned runs in the top of the first inning, with one scoring on catcher’s interference, Minnesota State drew even in the second, with Connor McCallum picking up an RBI with a sharp single to right, and another run scoring on a passed ball.
The Bulldogs went up 4-2 in the fifth, but the Mavericks again tied the game, with McCallum cranking a solo homer and Patrick Dockendorf delivering an RBI triple. The Mavericks ended up with 15 hits but needed only one in the decisive eighth inning. Johnson slapped his second double down the right-field line, and Standish had a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt. Lucas Skjefte was hit by a pitch, and Matt Kuchenbecker was semi-intentionally walked to load the bases.
Dockendorf dribbled a ball to second, which was turned into an out at second, but an attempt at the double play turned into an error, allowing another run to score.
“We got down, and we made some mistakes,” Odegaard said. “We’ve been pretty in one-run games, and that’s what you need in the playoffs.”
Minnesota State starter Harvey Martin had some trouble every inning, scattering seven hits, two walks and two hit batters over five innings. He struck out five. Bryce Bellin got the win with three innings of one-hit relief, and Nick Sutherland picked up his 13th save, aided by the player of his first baseman.
“(Odegaard is) a first-team all-region defensive player,” Magers said. “He’s so fundamentally sound. He doesn’t get the publicity, but he’s saved us a lot of runs by scooping in the dirt or blocking a low throw.
“He stopped the ball enough that he could hustle after it, and the instincts to pick it up and throw right away was the difference. If he would have looked up and waited, it wouldn’t have been in time.”
Mike Eckhart finished with three hits, while Kuchenbecker, Dockendorf, Odegaard, Jeremy Sudbeck, Johnson and McCallum all had two.
The Mavericks have a chance to eliminate Wayne State at 3:30 p.m. today at Franklin Rogers Park.