Mankato, Minn.: The Regis baseball team jumped on the broad shoulders of senior right-hander Mike McElreath and rode him to a 4-2 11-inning victory over Winona State in an elimination game at the NCAA Central Region Tournament.
It was the second straight extra-inning affair the Rangers played in and this time it went Regis' (33-22) way. The #6 seed Rangers faced off against #5 seed Winona State Friday afternoon at Franklin Rogers Park with Winona State coming in with a 29-21 record.
It was yet another warm and breezy day which played into yet another pitcher's dual. Winona State struck first in the bottom of the first when Kyle Sill walked with one out. Cody Strang hit a single to center field moving Sill to second but the ball got by Regis centerfielder Ryan Eustice allowing each to advance another base.
Adam Gemuenden bounced out to second base driving in Sill to take a 1-0 lead. McElreath, who threw 166 pitches, set down the next seven Warrior batters and in the meantime the Rangers were able to tie the score.
Senior designated hitter Alex Haag connected on one of his three hits, singling to left field to leadoff the fourth. First baseman Tony Piazza hit a ball to the shortstop for what looked like a double play, however Piazza was hustling down the line and beat out the throw from second. Right fielder Steven Brault then popped out bringing left fielder Bob Terry to the plate.
Terry singled to third base to move Piazza to second. Piazza then scored when catcher Nano Jacobsen hit a single.
There was no scoring till the bottom of the eighth when Winona State scratched out a run. With one out, Sill hit a double to left center and then moved to third on a wild pitch. Gemuenden doubled in Sill but McElreath was able to set the next two down on strikeouts, two of his nine on the game.
The Rangers had one more chance and they wouldn't let this chance pass them by. Junior shortstop Cody Hastings, who went 4-for-5 on the day, hit a ball up the middle that looked like a single but the hustling Hastings stretched it into a double. "That was a crucial play for us," said skipper Dan McDermott.
Eustice then put down a perfect bunt to move Hastings to third. With the defense playing shallow, Billinger hit a bouncer to shortstop but Hastings got a great jump and scored without a throw.
McElreath came out in the bottom of the ninth and set down the Warriors in order. For the second night in a row the fans were treated to free baseball.
Regis went three up, three down in the 10th while Winona State got a runner to third with two outs. McElreath intentionally walked Gemuenden to get to Seth McMullen. McMullen put a charge into the ball but third baseman Dave Holland reacted to the line drive perfectly to end the threat.
Hastings again came through in the clutch as he singled with one out in the 11th. Eustice was then hit by pitch and that ended the night for Winona State left-hand pitcher John Wenker for right-hand pitcher Aaron Hoverson. Left-handed second baseman Nick Billinger took the first pitch from Hoverson and singled to left center to drive in Hastings. Another leftie, Haag, then hit a long fly ball to centerfield which was deep enough to score Eustice from third base.
The Ranger crowd wondered if McElreath would be sent out for the 11th inning and he indeed was. "Mike (McElreath) threw an unbelievable game for us today, I knew he could finish it for us," states McDermott.
He was helped by his defense in the 11th when pinch hitter Lucas Warren hit a ball up the middle that looked like it might find the hole when Billinger cut it off at the bag and turned and threw to first for the first out. Ryan Ledvina then walked before Derek Wojcik hit a shot to left center that looked to be in the whole enough for a double, however speedy outfielder Eustice came out of nowhere to snatch it out fo the air and effectively the air out of Winona State's comeback efforts.
McElreath finished off the game by fielding a slow roller from Mike Wasilik and throwing to first for the 33rd and final out of the game.
McElreath limited Winona State to just five hits with one of the two runs being earned. He improves to 9-4 on the season.
Terry collected two hits for Regis as they had 11 as a team.
Regis will now play at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon agains the loser of St. Cloud State and New Mexico Highlands.