Senior leadership from third baseman Charles Bruchu and left-handed pitcher Bryce Gapinski proved to be the spark for the St. Thomas baseball team’s 7-0 victory over Bethel Saturday at Veteran’s Field in Minnetonka, Minn.
Bruchu provided the offensive surge for the Tommies, hitting two home runs against Royal pitcher Matt Rowley; the first was a solo in the fourth inning and his second was a deep 3-run shot in the fifth inning that gave St. Thomas a commanding 5-0 lead.
Coach Chris Olean credited Bruchu on his big hitting day, commenting that he was “dialed in” on Rowley.
“That pitcher’s been tough on us before, so for us to get those runs on him was huge,” Olean said. “He smoked it. That was one of the longest homers we’ve had all year.”
Bruchu said he saw the ball well today and was happy to help capture the win after the team’s upset loss against St. Mary’s yesterday.
“Somebody has to step up and lead in that situation. It was fun to be that guy,” Bruchu said.
Gapinski’s performance was dominant on the mound, pitching a complete game and shutout against the Royals. The win gave Gapinski his 27th career win; he is now in a five-way tie for third place for most career wins among MIAC pitchers. The shutout was Gapinski’s fifth conference shutout this season.
Gapinski said he did a good job with controlling his pitches and making hitters go for pitches he wanted them to hit.
“I was playing with good defense behind me,” Gapinski said. “It’s pretty easy to win when you’ve got that.”
St. Thomas got on the board early in the game. Junior designated hitter Dylan Thomas singled to left field in the first inning and scored from first after Bruchu hit a double, giving the Tommies a 1-0 lead.
After Bruchu’s fourth and fifth inning home runs gave St. Thomas a 5-0 lead, Thomas hit a ball to center field for a double. After stealing third base, Thomas was hit home off a sophomore catcher J.D. Dorgan single, tallying the Tommies’ sixth run.
The Tommie hitters weren’t done yet. In the ninth inning, freshman outfielder Jack Hogan singled to left field and was hit home by sophomore outfielder Tim Kuzniar’s right field single. Hogan’s score gave St. Thomas its final run.
With the loss last night, the Tommies are now playing elimination games for the rest of the tournament.
Olean was proud of the two seniors’ stellar play against Bethel.
“Our seniors did what they are supposed to do,” Olean said.
The Tommies will play the loser of the St. John’s-St. Mary’s game at 6 p.m. today at Veteran’s Field.
Gapinski is confident in his team after its showing today, saying the Tommies proved themselves in a big game.
“We know what it takes to win this tournament,” Gapinski said. “We had a very successful regular season and we’ll take it from here.”
Bruchu echoed a similar sentiment, knowing his senior season is soon ending.
“We have to keep the momentum rolling. If we do that, we’ll win,” Bruchu said.
Hayley Schnell can be reached at email@example.com.