First baseman Tyler Peterson’s home run powered the No. 2-ranked St. Thomas baseball team past Gustavus 12-2 in game one of a doubleheader at Koch Diamond Monday.
The victory solidified the Tommies’ (29-5 overall, 17-1 MIAC) 11th straight MIAC regular season title.
St. Thomas rebounded from its first conference loss of the season, a 2-0 loss to Bethel in the second game of its doubleheader Sunday night. The Gusties (12-19 overall, 9-5 MIAC) split a twin bill with St. John’s Sunday afternoon.
Coach Chris Olean said it was meaningful to get the momentum going after the Bethel loss.
“I think it was important,” Olean said. “We were playing a Gustavus team that was certainly still trying to fight to make the playoffs here today. The Bethel game was a tough one. We didn’t necessarily play bad but we didn’t play up to our capabilities.”
St. Thomas had a strong start. In the first inning with two men on base, first baseman Tyler Peterson singled up the middle to score a runner from third. Gustie pitcher Justin Cunningham did the Tommies a favor by walking in another run.
Tommie pitcher Josh Kubitschek continued the dominance from the offense to the mound. Kubitschek said jumping on the Gusties right out of the gate played a huge role in his confidence.
“Getting up early gives the pitcher so much more confidence, so much more room to work with, and it just makes everything a lot easier on the pitcher,” Kubitschek said.
Tommie batters broke the game wide open in the bottom of the second. It all started with center fielder Ben Podobinski’s deep hit to the outfield. This success continued later in the inning as Peterson cranked a two-run homer over the left field wall. Peterson said he could tell it was gone right off the bat and the hit was career high.
“It was probably one of the best balls I’ve ever hit,” Peterson said. “When you know, you just know it feels good.”
The first hit off Kubitscheck came in the top of the third. Later in the inning, the Gusties scored their first runs off a dribbler to third and a single to the outfield. Outfielder Tim Kuzniar put an end to Gustavus’ run as he made a diving catch in right field to end the inning.
The Tommies added three runs in the third from a sacrifice fly to left from shortstop Jon Kinsel and a double from Kuzniar.
Kubitschek led the Tommies the rest of the way, finishing with nine strikeouts. Peterson finished the game with four hits and four RBIs. The Tommies held off the Gusties, winning 12-2.
Peterson said he had confidence that his team would come out on top.
“We’re better than them; we know and they know it,” Peterson said. “The longer you let those teams hang around, the more confidence they get.”
St. Thomas wins pitcher’s duel
In the second game of the doubleheader, pitcher Zach Franz held Gustavus scoreless through six innings of work, helping post a 4-0 victory.
Franz started off the afternoon strong, setting the Gusties down in order in the first inning. The Tommies kept the momentum going in the bottom half of the first, scoring two runs. Kuzniar drove in one run on a double to center field.
In the second, the success continued as Kinsel tripled, and Podobinski scored.
In the fifth, Gustavus got a glimpse of hope as one player reached third base. Gustavus was unable to bring the runner home. St. Thomas broke the scoring drought as catcher J.D. Dorgan smashed a solo homer to center field.
As the offense was doing work, the defense stayed strong with Franz on the mound.
Franz said he just wanted to do his job and wasn’t nervous that the offense wasn’t scoring.
“To me, it’s just going out there and throwing strikes,” Franz said. “Doing what I can for the team, that’s the main thing.”
St. Thomas outscored Gustavus 16-2 in both games. The Tommies have won 39 straight at Koch Diamond and 48 of their last 50 regular season conference games.
On deck for the Tommies is a double header at home against Hamline Tuesday. The team will battle through the MIAC playoffs as the top seed this weekend to better its chances of getting a top regional seed for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Olean said the most important thing for the team in the MIAC playoffs is the seeding.
“The conference tournament really shouldn’t mean much either,” Olean said. “It should be a deal where it’s just going to be seeding thing, where if we can win the tournament, we’ll go into the Midwest regions the No. 1 seed. If we don’t, maybe we’re a two or a three.”
Jesse Krull can be reached at email@example.com.