APPLETON, Wis. – Helped by center fielder Ben Podobinski’s go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning, the St. Thomas baseball team defeated Baldwin Wallace University 5-4 in its second game of the NCAA Division-III College World Series Saturday at Fox Cities Stadium.
The Tommies battled back from deficits twice in the game, and Podobinski’s ground ball through the right side of the infield gave the team the lead for good. Podobinski took his previous at-bats in the game into account and jumped on a fastball from Yellow Jackets’ starter Cory Waite to score shortstop Brady Johnson.
“A couple of the first at-bats, they worked me in and out, so they were going to try and come inside with a fastball,” Podobinski said. “I saw it, it came in and I just tried to square it up and hit it hard on the ground.”
The Tommies fell behind in the second inning after the Yellow Jackets capitalized on a error on a pickoff attempt from St. Thomas starting pitcher Colin Wendinger. After the throwing error moved the Baldwin-Wallace runner over to second base, the next batter scored the game’s first run with an RBI single to center field.
The Tommies committed three errors on the day, including two on failed pickoff attempts from Wendinger. Coach Chris Olean said the team played well on defense overall and said it is a very simple formula for the pitching staff to not repeat its mistakes.
“We know how to clean that up, just don’t throw it away,” Olean said. “But for the most part we played really good defense, the infield was getting hard though.”
The Tommies answered back in the third inning to tie the score at one on left fielder Tim Kuzniar’s RBI single that scored Podobinski.
The Yellow Jackets added two runs in the top of the fifth inning, but the Tommies answered right back in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of their own. After Podobinski walked, third baseman Jack Hogan drove him home with an RBI triple into the left field corner. Hogan later scored on a wild pitch, and said his familiarity with Waite’s pitches helped him in his pivotal plate appearance.
“I had seen a lot of breaking balls all day, and I kind of went up there sitting on the one and tried to hook it and keep it fair,” Hogan said. “With (Podobinski’s) speed on first, he was going to score easy.”
Catcher J.D. Dorgan singled in the seventh inning, becoming the second St. Thomas player this season, along with Kuzniar, to reach 200 career hits. Dorgan later scored on a throwing error by Baldwin-Wallace first baseman Kyle Chontos, but said Podobinski, who now has 198 career hits, may soon be joining Kuzniar and himself in the 200-hit club.
“(Podobinski) has been telling me how close I am, and he’s actually really close too,” Dorgan said. “But I knew I was one hit away.”
The ninth inning wasn’t as smooth as the Tommies would have liked; relief pitcher Tommy Danczyk gave up a run to cut the St. Thomas lead in half, but he was ultimately able to record the third out of the inning to preserve the win and earn the save.
St. Thomas will play the winner of the Wisconsin-Whitewater and State University of New York-Cortland game at 7 p.m. Sunday at Fox Cities Stadium.
Tom Pitzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.