The St. Edward’s baseball team ended Minnesota State pitcher Jason Hoppe’s Division II record scoreless streak at 55⅓ innings Thursday night.
But even that wasn’t enough to prevent the Hilltoppers from having their own season ended.
Despite rallying to tie the game three times, St. Edward’s finally ran out of comebacks in a 6-4 loss to the Mavericks in the semifinals of the Division II College World Series at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
The loss sends the Hilltoppers home with a 44-18 record, two wins shy of a trip to the national championship game.
“We fought, just like we have all year. We kept coming back, but they kept answering,” coach Rob Penders said. “We had 10 guys left on base, they had six. That was the difference in the game.”
St. Edward’s had its work cut out for it, needing to beat MSU twice to advance to Saturday’s tournament final and facing a first-team All-America pitcher who hadn’t allowed a run since April 7.
But just as they did 24 hours earlier in a win against Grand Canyon, the Hilltoppers came out swinging while putting at least one runner on base in every inning.
Although it took them several tries to get one of those runners home, they finally broke through on Hoppe in the fourth on an RBI single by Dylan Watts. That tied the game at one.
St. Edward’s then answered MSU scores with a single run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to stay even.
“It was really a momentum change towards us when we got that first run,” Watts said of the tally that broke Hoppe’s scoreless streak. “We knew we would break out some time and tie the game, but we weren’t able to go ahead.”
Despite pounding out 12 hits and benefitting from two errors, the Hilltoppers were never able to take the lead. And their pitching was never able to figure out a way to keep Lucas Skjefte, Connor McCallum and Nolan Johnson off the bases.
The second, third and fourth hitters in the MSU lineup, the trio had three hits each and combined to drive in five of their team’s six runs – including the two in the bottom of the seventh that proved to be the game winners.
St. Edward’s didn’t stop battling, though
Consecutive singles by Cutter Runte and Ransom LaLonde to lead off the ninth put the tying runs on base with nobody out. Nate Bobrowski got one run home on a ground out, but the Hilltoppers left the tying run at third when MSU closer Mahlon Zimmerman got Wes Koenig to fly softly to right for the game’s final out.
“This year has not been easy,” Penders said. “We’ve taken some lumps. To get here, give the effort we did and finish as one of the last four teams playing in the country is remarkable. It’s something we want to build on as a program.”