AZUSA, Calif. – With two outs and two men on base, Tyler Baker found himself at the plate for the second game in a row with the game on the line. Thursday night, Baker’s fly ball fell a few feet short at the warning track and gave Dixie State its first loss in the NCAA Division II tournament.
But this Friday at-bat also carried with it the Trailblazers’ season. It was win or go home. Cal-Poly Pomona had just put up four runs to take a 5-3 lead over Dixie State. Baker worked the count to 3-2. Baker then took the inside pitch to the gap in left center field for a two-RBI double. With the game tied, the Blazers took the game to extra innings and won 6-5 when Miles Bice batted in Trey Reineke on a fielder’s choice in the 10th.
On his game-tying hit, Baker had very simple intent. “I just wanted to get to the next man,” said Baker. “I knew there were two out. I just wanted keep the game going.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning. Bryce Feist opened the inning with a single down the right field line. He was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Drew McLaughlin. Feist scored when Trey Kamachi hit safely through the left side. That score held till the bottom of the sixth, when the Broncos got on the board for the first time.
The Blazers answered in the second with a two-out rally. Bice started things with a double. Reece Lucero then singled through the left side to put runners at the corners. After Lucero stole second, Feist hit a single up the middle to score the two runs and give DSU a 3-1 lead.
In the eighth, DSU starter Mason Hilty, who to that point had pitched superbly giving up one run by scattering six hits, gave up four consecutive hits to Cal Poly-Pomona. Unfortunately, three of those hits were home runs. Dixie State head coach Chris Pfatenhauer finally pulled Hilty, but the damage had been done and DSU trailed for the first time in the game, 5-3, to set up Baker’s heroics in the ninth inning.
In the extra inning, Logan Porter started things by getting hit by a pitch. Reineke entered the game as a pinch runner. Tyler Mildenberg then drew a walk to put runners at first and second. After a pitching change, Ryan Rodriguez laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Bice then hit a grounder to second base. Bice was thrown out on the play, but Reineke scored the run that eventually won the game.
“The bottom third of our lineup (Bice-Lucero-Feist) played superbly today,” said Pfatenhauer. The last three batters accounted for five of DSU’s 11 hits and five of the six runs scored.
In the bottom of the tenth the Broncos actually loaded the bases against relief pitcher Tanner Howell. With two outs gone, Coach Pfatenhauer brought in Tyler Burdett to finish the game. Burdett got the Bronco batter to foul out to the catcher to seal the win.
“We had great pitching from our relievers tonight,” said Pfatenhauer. “And except for a few pitches in the eighth, Mason Hilty had a dominant performance as well. Overall, our guys stayed resilient. They did not give up. We are excited to play another day.”
Kamachi led the team with three hits. Baker, Feist and Bice also had multiple hits. Baker and Feist also led the team with two RBIs apiece. Howell (3-2) picked up the win and Burdett got the save (his fifth).
With the win, Dixie State moves to 38-13-1. TheBlazers will play PacWest rival California Baptist Saturday at 3 p.m. Pacific Time in an elimination game. DSU won the season series against the Lancers 3-1. Cal Poly-Pomona drops to 34-21 and will play the loser of UCSD-Azusa Pacific Saturday. The winners of those two games will play later in the night to determine which team will get the opportunity to face the team that emerges unscathed in the winners’ bracket on Sunday.
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