Junior Dylan Thomas’ hot bat and solid pitching helped clinch a conference playoff berth for the No. 2-ranked St. Thomas baseball team (26-4 overall, 14-0 MIAC) Tuesday afternoon after its doubleheader sweep against Carleton College (12-19 overall, 4-10 MIAC) at home.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Thomas went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI doubles and also collected his second save of the season in the team’s 8-7 victory. The Tommies shut out Carleton 9-0 in the second game and extended their win streak to 17 games.
“I was just seeing the ball really well today for some reason. They left some pitches up in the zone, and I took advantage of it and drove in runs,” Thomas said. “That is what you are supposed to do in the three hole.”
Along with Thomas providing the Tommies with some much needed run support in their
game-one victory, freshman outfielder Ben Podobinski contributed clutch hits of his own.
The left-handed Podobinski came into Tuesday’s game batting a team best .383 and improved his average by going 3-for-3 with a walk.
Podobinski said he’s seen success at the plate by being prepared.
“Just trying to see the ball and see the ball deep,” Podobinski said. “I started pulling off of it (the ball) the last couple games, but I’m trying to see the ball better and go the other way with it.”
Along with Podobinski and Thomas collecting RBIs for St. Thomas, sophomore catcher J.D. Dorgan also hit his first home run of the year over the left field fence.
The Tommies had five two-out RBI hits and rallied from a 5-2 deficit, but Carleton answered back.
Down 7-5 in the fifth inning, the Knights scored two runs to tie things up on an RBI single by Erik Fabry and an RBI triple by Jeff Dsida.
But Podobinski’s one-out double and Thomas’ two-out double in the sixth inning broke a 7-7 tie.
Sophomore Mark Ulrich, the third St. Thomas pitcher used in the game, got the win. Ulrich came into Tuesday’s affair with an ERA of 1.00 and improved his overall season record to 2-0.
Thirteen consecutive doubleheader sweeps
Senior left-handed pitcher Bryce Gapinski dominated in the second game for the Tommies as they cruised to a 9-0 victory over Carleton.
Gapinski threw a four-hit shutout with no walks and six strikeouts to post his 24th career victory. With the win, Gapinski improves to 5-0 on the season.
“I had command of my curveball and fastball today,” Gapinski said. “Getting ahead in the count is something that was the key to my success today, getting ahead and making good pitches with it.”
Coach Chris Olean said the team performed from start to finish in the second game.
“I feel our second game today was our first complete game of the entire year, where we actually played seven full innings front to back,” Olean said. “In the first game, we just found ways to win and that is what we have been doing all year.”
Sophomore second baseman Sam Miller hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning that capped a seven-run inning for the Tommies.
The win keeps St. Thomas four games ahead of St. John’s, which swept St. Olaf on Tuesday, and the Tommies are now one win away from the school record for consecutive victories set in 1997.
St. Thomas also extended its home win streak to 24 games, and the Tommies have swept 13 consecutive MIAC doubleheaders since April 2011.
“I want us to keep getting better; today was a step forward for us,” Olean said. “Our offense showed signs of life today. Up to this point in the year, it has been pitching and defense that has won us games.”
Jake Swansson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.