BROOKINGS – In only its fifth game played in Brookings this season, the South Dakota State baseball team used a seventh inning rally to defeat the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles 5-4 in the first game of a three-game series Friday.
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a Hunter Wilson sacrifice fly. The Jacks would tie it up 1-1 in the bottom of the third after a solo home run from Gus Steiger.
Oral Roberts scored one run in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning to give them a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. That’s when the Jacks’ bats came to life.
Third baseman Luke Ira led off the inning with a double. He later scored when Nick Smith hit a grounder that went between Wilson’s legs at second base. Steiger then hit a single to left field that scored two runs after a throwing error and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Braeden Brown to give the Jacks a 5-4 lead heading into the eighth inning.
During the seventh inning some of the Jacks hitters were seeing the Golden Eagles starting pitcher, Josh McMinn, for a third time in the game. SDSU head coach Rob Bishop said he thought that attributed to the big inning.
“McMinn’s always been tough on us,” he said. “He’s a guy that usually if you don’t get hits early, it’s tough. He was at 100 pitches and I thought he made good pitches and they had a chance to make a play at shortstop, but luckily for us they didn’t make it and we got some big hits after that.”
Bret Barnett came in to pitch for the Jackrabbits in the eighth inning. Isaac Coffey led off the inning with a single up the middle, but Barnett buckled down and got the next three batters out.
Barnett would pitch in the ninth as well, after the Jacks were unable to extend the lead. He gave up a single to the first batter once again, but struck out the final three batters to get the save.
“[Barnett] was a little out rhythm for five or six pitches the first inning he was in there. Then I thought he really buckled down and made some good pitches. Had great velocity and his breaking ball was good, which he was able to throw when he was behind in the count. If there’s a save he’s earned this year it’s this one,” Bishop said.
Steiger led the Jackrabbits, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a home run.
“Gus [Steiger] is just a really good player and a really good hitter. I thought today, on his home run he hit a mistake. The guy hung a breaking ball and he put a good swing on it. He’s a guy we want to have at the plate in a big spot,” Bishop said.
This was a big game in the Summit League standings. It put the Jacks (25-18, 17-8) three games ahead of the Golden Eagles for second place in the league. SDSU is two games behind Omaha for the top spot in the league.
“This was really big because we’re chasing a regular-season championship. That was one of our goals early on and to have ORU be the team right on our tails in the standings it means even more. They all have equal importance, but when you’re playing the top teams, you have to show up,” Bishop said.
With rain in the forecast for most of the day Saturday, Bishop said it was unlikely that the Jacks and Golden Eagles play Game 2 of the series.
“With thunderstorms you just don’t know,” he said. “The issue right now is that our field is just playable today and we can’t take much more rain. So if we get rain here, we won’t play tomorrow and we’ll have to move it to Sioux Falls and maybe get to play here Sunday.”
SDSU will finish up the series with ORU this weekend before heading to Fargo next weekend for a three-game series with NDSU to close out the regular season.
South Dakota State 5, Oral Roberts 4
SDSU 001 000 40x – 5 9 1
ORU 001 011 100 – 4 6 2
Josh McMinn, Trey Wolf (7) and Riley Keizor; Tyler Olmstead, Brett Mogen (7), Brady Moxham (7), Bret Barnett (8) and Derek Hackman. W – Moxham (1-0). L – McMinn (6-4). Sv – Barnett (6). 2B: ORU, Anthony Martinez; SDSU, Luke Ira, Logan Holtz. HR: SDSU, Gus Steiger.