The Seattle University bullpen kept the Redhawks in the game, and the offense finally broke through for three runs in the sixth inning, allowing Seattle U to defeat New Mexico State, 7-6, Saturday afternoon in a Western Athletic Conference baseball contest at Courter Field.
Unfortunately, San Jose State earned the eighth and final spot in the WAC Baseball Tournament with an 8-5 victory over CSU Bakersfield Sunday afternoon. The Spartans finished the conference season with an 11-16 record, a half-game ahead of the Redhawks in the final standings.
Kyle Doyle (Covington, Wash.) came on in the second inning in relief of Redhawk starter Ted Hammond (Shoreline, Wash.) and immediately allowed a two-run double that extended New Mexico State’s lead to 6-2. Doyle settled down and gave up just one hit and two walks over the next 4 1/3 innings to keep the Aggies from further increasing their advantage.
Seattle U took advantage of control issues from New Mexico State starter Kevin Carswell, as Steve Kirbach (Kirkland, Wash.), Brian Olson (Black Diamond, Wash.), and Cullen Hendrickson (Auburn, Wash.) all drew walks to lead off the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Chase Fields (Ontario, Ore.) was hit by a pitch, forcing Kirbach in with a run and ending Carswell’s outing. Landon Cray (Chimacum, Wash.) would follow with a sacrifice fly that scored Olson to cut the Redhawk deficit to 6-4.
New Mexico State reliever Trey Higginbotham kept the Redhawks off balance through the middle innings, giving up only three walks until the sixth inning. Kirbach led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Olson laced a single to right-center field, and Hendrickson recovered from missing two sacrifice bunt attempts to bloop a single into right field, scoring Kirbach and advancing Olson to third base.
Bryndon Ecklund (Elma, Wash.) hit a bouncer to Aggie third baseman Robert Lecount, but his only play was to first base, allowing Olson to score the game-tying run. Fields followed with a single to left-center field, scoring Hendrickson to put the Redhawks ahead for the first time in the game.
Connor Moore (West Richland, Wash.) came on in the seventh inning and retired the Aggies in order before allowing a leadoff single to Parker Hipp in the eighth inning. Eric Yardley (Richland, Wash.) replaced Moore and struck out Lecount before walking Kyle Phillips, but Yardley induced a double play grounder to end the Aggie threat. Yardley gave up a two-out single in the ninth inning, but he ended the game with a groundout for his 11th save of the season.
“Kyle came in and filled some big innings for us just to keep us in the game, and I thought the offense responded well, especially after Kirbach got that hit in the sixth, it made our guys believe that they could get hits off that pitcher as well,” Seattle U head coach Donny Harrel said. “It was the perfect scenario, a program guy on the mound to end the game with Yardley getting the save.”
New Mexico State (28-26, 13-14 WAC) jumped on the board in the first inning, as Hipp hit a two-run home run to right field and Lecount followed with a solo shot to left field, putting the Aggies ahead, 3-0.
In the bottom of the first, Fields led off with a single, stole second base, and came around to score on a single by Cray. After Cray advanced to second on a passed ball, Ryan Somers (Sammamish, Wash.) hit a deep fly ball to center field that Phillips was able to catch, but he stumbled and fumbled the ball, allowing Cray to come all the way around from second to score, closing the Redhawk deficit to 3-2.
With one out in the second inning, Quinnton Mack doubled down the left field line and scored on a single to center field by Michael Medina. Derek Umphres would walk, ending the day for Hammond and setting up the two-run double by Tanner Rust off Doyle.
The Redhawks collected six hits, with Fields going 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI, but they also drew seven walks during the game. The Aggies finished with nine hits, with Hipp going 2-for-2 with two walks while Medina and Mack also earned two hits apiece.
Seattle University finishes the 2013 season 21-33 overall, including 10-16 in the WAC. Before Saturday's game, the Redhawks honored seniors Zach Aaker (Ravensdale, Wash.), Ecklund, Evan Ewing (Spokane, Wash.), Blaine Jones (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), Kirbach, Josh Kutz (Seattle, Wash.), Nick Latta (Tacoma, Wash.), Sean Narby (Auburn, Wash.), Nate Roberts (Silverdale, Wash.), and Yardley for their significant contributions in helping build the Seattle U baseball program over the past four years.