The St. Thomas baseball team struggled offensively, but superb pitching, highlighted by Steve Maher and Eric Veglahn, fueled a pair of one-run victories over conference foe Gustavus Monday at Koch Diamond.
The Tommies (14-5, 5-0 MIAC) won the first game of the doubleheader 2-1 in eight innings and kept the momentum going, winning the second game 3-2 to secure the sweep of the Gusties (4-6, 0-2 MIAC).
“The fact that we won makes it worth it,” coach Chris Olean said. “If we would have lost, I would’ve said I don’t want to be in a close game; but at the end of the day it’s just finding a way to win.”
That’s exactly what the Tommies did Monday; they found a way to win.
The first game was a low-scoring affair, as both teams battled back and forth through the first seven innings. A 1-1 tie through seven, the game went to extra innings, where the Tommies were able to scrape a run across home plate when freshman Logan Borg scored the winning run on a wild pitch after the Tommies loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth.
Veglahn struck out six and allowed four hits and no walks in five innings of work before being relieved by Bill Ferderer in the sixth inning. Tommy Danczyk came on in the seventh inning, pitched one and two-thirds innings and was credited with the win.
The exciting win was just what the team needed going into the second game, first baseman Tyler Peterson said.
“That’s the thing about doubleheaders,” Peterson said. “When you win a close one like that, it’s nothing but momentum. We fed off it and let it carry us right into game two.”
St. Thomas used that momentum to get on the board first in the second game, as left fielder Tim Kuzniar drove a single to right in the first inning, scoring right fielder Kelvin Stroik.
The Gusties were quick to counter, as they put up two runs in the second inning on RBIs from Max Fidler and Josh Chatfield.
The Tommies would not be denied though. After Peterson put down a bunt for an RBI single in the third inning, St. Thomas added another run to take the lead for good.
“It was just a situation where the third baseman was way back, so I thought ‘why not give it a shot?’” Peterson said of his two-out bunt. “I figured if I execute, I get the run in and get an easy single out of it, so I took it.”
That third-inning rally was all the Tommies needed to secure the sweep as pitcher Steve Maher was lights out for the rest of the game. Coming on in relief of starter Zach Franz, Maher threw four and two-thirds innings of hitless ball, including six strikeouts, on the way to his second victory of the season.
“My fastball (was working today), which is kind of odd for me,” Maher said. “I’m usually an off-speed pitcher, but I couldn’t really find that. I had to go to my No. 2-pitch, and luckily I was able to spot it for a strike, and it worked out.”
The two wins, in such tight fashion over a conference opponent, are something the Tommies are hoping will help them later on in the season.
“One-run victories are huge,” Maher said. “It’s something we haven’t been able to do much this year, so that means a lot to our confidence knowing that we can grind those out.”
“By the time we get to the end of the year, these are the games you want to be good at and feel comfortable in,” Olean added. “So as long as we win them, I’m happy.”
St. Thomas will be back in action at 5 p.m. Friday at home to finish last week’s game that was suspended due to darkness.
On Saturday, Wis.-Stout comes to St. Paul for a doubleheader. The first game will start at 1 p.m.
Scott Sikich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.