By DOUG HENNES
St. Mary’s got the big hit with bases loaded -– and St. Thomas didn’t -– and that proved to be the difference Friday as the Cardinals upended the Tommies 4-2 in the opening game of the MIAC playoffs in Minnetonka.
St. Thomas starter Mark Dominik held St. Mary’s to one hit over eight innings, but the Cardinals strung together four consecutive singles in the top of the 10th to score twice and claim the win.
The Tommies loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but a grounder to third ended the threat. They stranded 10 runners on the day, including seven in scoring position, and will play a losers’ bracket game at 11 a.m. Saturday against Bethel, a 7-3 loser against St. John’s.
“No big hits – that was the story of the day,” St. Thomas coach Chris Olean said. “We let them (the Cardinals) stick around too long and they got their hits at the end.”
The loss was the third in four games for the No. 2-ranked Tommies (31-7), who are top-seeded in the playoffs after winning their 10th consecutive regular season MIAC title. They need to win two games Saturday and two Sunday to clinch the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament next week in Whitewater, Wis., although they could receive an at large-bid.
Olean chose not to start one of his top three pitchers but sent Dominik to the mound. The junior from Hill-Murray came into the game 2-0 with only 14 innings in three appearances, but held St. Mary’s to two runs –- one earned. Dominik's previous longest mound stint of his career was five innings, twice in 2012.
“Mark kept us in the game,” Olean said. “To give up only one hit over eight innings was a great effort.”
St. Thomas broke on top with a first-inning home run from freshman rightfielder Jack Hogan, the first of his career. St. Mary’s went ahead on two runs in the top of the second on a hit batter, a double, a passed ball and a fielder’s choice groundout.
The Tommies tied the game in their half of the second on a Tim Kuzniar homerun, and the score remained 2-2 until St. Mary’s scored twice in the 10th. Dominik retired 16 Cardinals in a row through the eighth.
Designated hitter Dylan Thomas, on the mound in relief in the ninth, sprained his ankle on the follow through of a pitch and left the game. Tommy Danczyk relieved Thomas and took the loss.
The Cardinals (22-18) were held to one hit in eight innings but scrd twice in the top of the 10th on a solid single, a bloop single, a bunt single, an RBI single through a drawn-in infield, and an RBI groundout.