“There was a little bit of a distraction, but our guys didn’t get to wrapped up in it,” commented SUU interim coach Clayton Carson. “We definitely don’t see our season ending in the near future.”
The Thunderbirds fell behind early after the visiting Jackrabbits jumped out to a 4-0 lead on a thee-run homerun from shortstop Eric Cain in the top of the third. SUU second baseman David Ricker led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple before coming in to score on a wild pitch to make the count 4-1.
South Dakota State got another run on an RBI double from Beau Hanowski in the following inning to push its lead back to four, but the Thunderbirds answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to trim the deficit to 5-3. Marcus Romero grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring in a run and Chase Rezac added an RBI double down the left field line to bring Southern Utah within two.
The Jacks put together another big inning in the top of the seventh as first baseman Aaron Machbitz hit the second three-run homerun of the day for his team as part of a five-run inning that saw South Dakota State take a 10-3 lead.
The T-Birds battled back in the bottom half of the frame as the first two batters safely reached base. Rezac then drove a pitch over the left field wall for a three-run blast that pulled within four. Then after the Thunderbirds had loaded the bases, Ricker put a ball down the right field line for a two RBI single. Bo Cuthbertson drove in another run with a groundout RBI to pull the team within a single run, but SDSU reliever DJ Moore would end the inning with a strikeout to help the Jackrabbits hold onto a 10-9 lead.
South Dakota State added an insurance run in the top of the ninth and Moore held the Thunderbirds scoreless over the final two frames to help his team come away with an 11-9 victory.
Rezac’s fifth homerun of the year helped the
SUU slugger finish the day 3-for-5 at the plate with four RBI and a run scored. Machbitz went 4-5 for the Jackrabbits with three RBI and also scored a run.
Senior pitcher Joe Karlik (2-3) took the loss for the Thunderbirds after allowing nine runs in six-and-two-thirds innings. South Dakota State starter Adam Bray (3-3) picked up the win while giving up six scores in six innings.
With the loss Southern Utah drops to 17-31 on the year but remains among the top-four teams in the Summit League standings with a conference record of 11-8. SDSU is now 5-12 in league play and 16-31-1 overall.
“We have a great opportunity going into Oakland this coming week, it should really give us a gage of on where we are for the conference tournament,” said Carson. “We expect to get a series win and be playing at the level we are capable of going into the tournament.”
Southern Utah will wrap up the regular season next week with a four-game road series at league leading Oakland. The Thunderbirds and Golden Grizzlies will get things underway with an afternoon game set for Thursday at 2 p.m. (MT)