Photo Courtesy: SAU Athletics
MANKATO, Minn. - Facing elimination in the Central Region Tournament, freshman left-hander Timothy Buchanan kept the Southern Arkansas season alive as he threw a one-run complete-game victory against Central Missouri to advance SAU to another elimination game 40 minutes later against St. Cloud State.
The Muleriders' season, however, would come an abrupt and heartbreaking end on a play at the plate as David Harris was trying to score the tying run on a ringing double by Brady Capshaw.
In the first game of the day, Buchanan, the Great American Conference Freshman of the Year, went the first five innings without allowing a hit to a Central Missouri hitter. During that stretch of solid pitching, Buchanan (10-1) was staked to a 4-0 lead as the Muleriders (42-17) scored a pair of runs in the first and third innings.
In the first inning, it was RBI singles by Brady Capshaw and Tyler Cameron that scored the two runs while in the third, Cameron added a RBI double and Ryan Bell's single up the middle platted the second of the two runs in that frame.
With one out in the top of the sixth, the Mules (36-13) would get their first hit of the game on a bunt single by Samuel Domingue. After advancing to second on a balk by Buchanan, Domingue would come around to score the Mules' lone run of the game on a single through the left side by Kyle Grieshaber.
The Mules would also mount threats against Buchanan in the seventh and eighth innings, but in each instance Buchanan would strand a pair of base runners and not allow a run to score. Running back out on the mound in the ninth inning, Buchanan would work around a two-out single to finish off his third complete game of the season and in doing so, keep the Muleriders' season alive.
Just 40 minutes after Buchanan extended the Muleriders' season, they were back on the diamond looking to avenge a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to St. Cloud State a night ago.
In that game, the Huskies (37-10) got on the board first as they scored a single run off of SAU starter Philip Menou in the bottom of the first inning.
After being held scoreless over the first two innings, the Muleriders would get a clutch two-out, two-RBI knock from Capshaw to take a 2-1 lead. The lead would not last long, however, as the Huskies came back in the bottom of the frame and scored three runs to reclaim the lead, 4-2. The Huskies then scored another run in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 5-2 lead.
The Muleriders would get a run back in the top of the fifth inning, however, as Jackson McCurdy got a clutch two-out single to score Harris from second base.
Neither team would score over the next two innings as the Huskies' starter Corey Fitzgerald continued to pitch well, while the Muleriders were able to get solid relief outings from Blake Sullivan and Justin Thomas.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Muleriders would inch closer as Ryan Dardenne came through with a two-out single to score Capshaw and pull SAU to within a run, 5-4. With the momentum shifting towards the Muleriders, Thomas came back in the bottom of the eighth and struck out the side to keep it a one-run game.
Needing one run to extend the game, the Muleriders put that potential tying run on base as Jason Dahl singled up the middle to lead off the frame. In the next at-bat, Dahl would be erased as the Huskies' closer Reese Gregory got double play to put the Muleriders down to their final out.
In the ensuing at-bat, Harris laced the first pitch he saw for a single to right-centerfield to once more put the tying run on base for cleanup hitter Capshaw. Capshaw would take the first two pitches for balls as he worked himself into a great hitters' count. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Capshaw roped a liner into the left field corner. Harris, who was on first base, began to race towards home plate in hopes of tying the game up.
Digging the ball out of the corner was the Huskies' left fielder Phil Imholte. Imholte then threw into his cutoff man, third baseman Sean Borman. Borman's relay throw was on-point and in time as Harris did all he could to avoid the tag at the plate, but Harris was called out, bringing the Muleriders season to an abrupt and heartbreaking end.
The Muleriders end their season finishing third in the Central Region Tournament. They also were able to successfully defend their regular season and tournament championships in the Great American Conference while turning in the first 40-plus win season since 2010.