With a spot in the NCBA World Series Championship hanging in the balance, the Utah State club baseball team earned a 2-1 win over Texas Tech Tuesday in a 16-inning marathon.?
?Fifth year senior Brett Jensen scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning to give the Aggies the walk-off win.??
Solid defense and strong pitching was the story throughout the game, but the Red Raiders finally broke through in the fourth inning. A pair of walks sandwiched between a bunt loaded the bases with nobody out, and a sacrifice fly scored a runner from third.??
Pitcher Travis Hoffmeister went the first eight innings for Texas Tech, allowing three hits and walking two before handing the ball to Ryan Canak. Canak – the Red Raiders ace – was originally slated to start Wednesday’s game if the Red Raiders had won.??
Despite the duo striking out 16 USU batters on the day, the Aggies answered in the bottom of the fourth inning on a 1-out single from Robert Garrett. After Matt Stranski hit a leadoff single, Gavin Johnson popped out and Jake Bartholomew walked to move Stranski to second. Up stepped Garrett, and the junior from Millville, Utah ripped a line drive into left field to knot the game at 1-1.
??“At that point we said we had to keep going and put something together,” USU’s leadoff hitter Brad Singer said. “(The game) just kept going and going. It was a mental game, it was an exhausting game physically and mentally.”
??Both teams had chances throughout the day, as the Red Raiders finished with 12 hits, including a chance to score with the bases loaded with one out in the twelfth inning. With the go-ahead run on third, the Aggie defense stepped up and rolled a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning.??
It was one of three double plays the Aggies executed on the day, bailing pitchers Sixto Cabrera and Jaren Tyler out of a couple of tight spots. Cabrera went six innings for the Aggies, allowing five hits while walking three, while Tyler went 10 innings, striking out five while walking three.??
“(Tyler) was just so phenomenal,” USU head coach Norman Doyle said. “A lot of props to him, he was just incredible.”??
Utah State had a shot to end the game in the 15th inning, putting two runners on with one out and the top of the order coming up. However, Canak came through for Texas Tech, striking out Singer and getting Garrett Schiffman to groundout to get to the 16th inning.
??Tyler pitched his 10th consecutive scoreless inning, bringing the Aggies’ pitching staff’s total to six runs allowed – only three of which were earned runs – in 33 innings of tournament play. Tyler mowed down the Texas Tech side, throwing 170 pitches in relief.?
?That set the stage for a wild and dramatic finish.
??Jensen hit a leadoff single, and then stole second with two outs and Jake Bartholomew at the plate. Bartholomew hit a blooper over the first baseman’s head down the right-field line in a designed hit-and-run, but Doyle opted the hold Jensen at third.
??However, the throw from right field to home hit the first-base umpire and bounced toward second base, allowing Jensen to score from third and giving the Aggies the win.
??“I was just thinking that if I get a hit and he’s running already, it should send him home,” Bartholomew said. “It took awhile for the right fielder to get to it and he made a bad throw. The umpire is in play, so he was able to go home.”??
The win gave Utah State its first ever birth in the NCBA World Series Championship game, where the Aggies will meet the winner of Pittsburg/Colorado State for the title.??The title game is scheduled for Thursday, May 31, at 5:30 MST. It can be heard live online at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ncba-world-series-radio.??
“We’re feeling pretty confident right now,” Bartholomew said. “We beat the second ranked team in our first game, the first ranked team in our second game, and now we beat the third ranked team. Our confidence is sky-high that we can win this. We don’t want to settle for anything less than the big trophy.”