Following their recent split with the Cardinals of St. Mary’s a couple weekends ago, the Gusties were able to claim the MIAC championship this past weekend following their double header matchup against the St. Olaf Oles.
Going into the matchup, the Gusties only required one win that day to claim a share of the MIAC title, with two wins ensuring they would win it outright.
Seeing as this was the final home game of the year, the game was designated (by tradition) as Senior Day to pay tribute to the seven seniors who will be graduating in the coming weeks. Those recognized were Seniors Ryan Moriarty, Dexter Leer, Grant Brockhouse, Matt Berkner, Sam Archer, Adam Stockwell, and Drew Weidner.
The first game of the day started at 1 p.m. and was a rollercoaster of emotions for players and fans alike. The Oles were able to take control of the game early, scoring seven runs in the first inning. The men in the Black and Gold didn’t give up though, scoring six runs in the fourth inning after a series of hits from Berkner and Archer, as well as Sophomores Cole Pengilly and Ethan Mocchi, and Junior Brice Panning. Mocchi started the inning off strong, hitting a homerun early in the inning to give the Gusties momentum. The scoring continued in the fifth, as Leer was able to bat home his first career home run. The Oles were able to capitalize on a couple errors in the sixth, and went up 14-9. The Gusties went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to give the Oles the win in the first game. Pengilly led the men with three RBIs, while Panning, Archer and Mocchi each recorded two. First-year Jack Garrison threw 4.2 innings in the game, striking out five and only allowing two earned runs.
With the loss of game one, and some help around the rest of the league, the MIAC title was at stake for both teams. The winner of the second game would take the the MIAC Championship outright, a situation the Gusties were hoping they wouldn’t find themselves in.
Following a thirty-minute intermission, game two was underway. The Oles continued their momentum in the first inning, notching two runs to take an early lead. The Gusties didn’t trail for long though, as a dropped fly ball off of Sophomore Nathan Lindberg’s bat allowed the men to tie the game at two runs. The Gusties then took their first lead of the game at 3-2, following a triple by Pengilly batted in by Berkner who was shortly after. It wouldn’t be in true MIAC fashion for the action to end there, and the Oles retook the lead 6-3 in the fifth after a pair of homeruns. The Gusties remained focused in bottom half of the fifth, as they used three St. Olaf errors to earn a run, despite not recording a hit.
Both teams went scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings, with Sophomore pitcher Gavyn Walsh allowing just two hits and one walk in 3.1 innings to keep the Gusties in the game. The eighth inning looked as though it was going to end rather quickly, as the men found themselves with two outs and only Lindberg on first. However, a series of walks followed by a single by Berkner allowed the Gusties to make the game 6-5 with runners on both first and third. Two more walks followed, tying the game up at six apiece.
Moriarty, who has been battling an injury all season, stepped up to the plate for one of the biggest at-bats in his Gustavus career.
Head Coach Brad Baker knew that Moriarty was going to be a key piece for the men to win the MIAC Championship.
“I told him last week that he’s going to be the guy that’s going to take us to this championship. He was hurt and he’s missed time, and then he did this, and it was just awesome,” Baker said.
What he was referring to was Moriarty’s hit straight up the middle that allowed for the Gusties to take the final lead of the game, 8-6. The Gusties were fired up, and a hit from Mocchi pushed two more runs home, and the Gusties led 10-6 after eight innings.
Panning was put in shortly into the ninth inning, allowing only one hit before striking out the final three batters andsecuring the MIAC Championship for the Gusties. The victory secured the team’s first MIAC title since 1980, when Baker attended Gustavus.
“The last time we won the conference, I went to school here, and these kids are just so sick and tired of hearing about the last time,” Baker said. “So I told them this was [their] year; It’s super special. From day one our goal was to win the conference and these kids, along with our coaching staff, all bought in.
What a batch of kids though, to watch this all day and watch them battle back, it’s incredible.” -Coach Brad Baker
As MIAC Champions, the Gusties enter conference playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and will face No. 4 Saint Mary’s at 3 p.m. on May 9, 2019. The contest will be held at CHS Field in St. Paul, MN, as the Gusties look to extend their season and go on a run in the National tournament.