St. Thomas senior pitcher Kris Edwards out-dueled St. John’s ace Brett Kramer, throwing a nine-inning shutout as the Tommies defeated the Johnnies 1-0 in the opening round of the MIAC playoffs.
Edwards allowed four hits and struck out seven Johnnies, including Connor Cline and Eric Smith, the Johnnies’ fourth and fifth hitters, to end the game. Five of his seven strike outs came in the final two innings.
“I don’t think I’ve ever actually thrown a nine-inning game,” Edwards said. “I definitely wanted the ninth. I started the game, and I wanted to finish it.”
With a 1-0 lead, St. Thomas coach Chris Olean said it was an easy decision to give Edwards the ninth.
“His pitch count was actually down because he had so many of those early innings where they hit the ball early in the count,” Olean said. “It was kind of a no-brainer to leave him out there until either we won or lost.”
The Tommie offense has averaged more than 10 runs in the last seven games, but Kramer held the Tommies to one run on seven hits. Kramer had a 1.44 ERA this season.
“[Kramer] is one of the better pitchers in the league,” Olean said. “That’s why I threw Kris. I knew we had to match up.”
Cline led off the seventh inning for the Johnnies with a walk. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and then to third on a Max Forster single. With one out and runners on first and third, St. John’s tried to break the tie with a play on the base paths.
Forster got an early jump to steal second base. When Edwards stepped off the rubber and threw to second, Cline dashed toward home plate, but St. Thomas senior shortstop Tim Kahle threw Cline out at home.
“It was a little weird,” Kahle said. “He thought he was going home, but obviously I jumped the play, and we got him.”
Kahle led off the bottom of the seventh with a single.
“Usually that happens,” Kahle said. “When you make a good play on defense it propels you to make a good hit on offense.”
Kahle scored the game’s only run when freshman J.D. Dorgan ripped an RBI double into left field, but Dorgan was called out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, causing Olean to rush onto the field.
“He was very, very safe,” Olean said. “Most of the time you don’t take that chance, but I thought he had it, and he did. I’m not usually a yeller and a screamer, but on that one he was just wrong.”
Olean was worked up over the call that could have cost the Tommies a run, but Edwards made it all better in the eighth, striking out three Johnnies.
“[Edwards] was awesome,” Kahle said. “He just did a great job shutting them down. It’s playoff baseball. It’s going to be close games, so we need our ace to step up.”
The Tommies will play the winner of tonight’s game between Macalester and Hamline Saturday at 2 p.m.
Alex Keil can be reached at email@example.com.