TULSA, Okla. — Southern Utah took a 1-0 lead in its second round game of the Summit League Tournament on Friday, but was unable to hold on as Oakland eventually rallied for a 4-2 victory. The loss eliminates the Thunderbirds (18-36), while the Golden Grizzlies will go on to play again tonight in another elimination game.
The loss also ends the Thunderbirds' baseball program. Southern Utah University is eliminating baseball as it moves to the Big Sky Conference, which does not have conference baseball but necessitates the addition of men's tennis.
The Thunderbirds tallied the game's opening run in the bottom of the fourth inning to claim a 1-0 lead. Chase Rezac started things off with a single to centerfield before taking off for second on a ground out during the next at bat. Rezac rounded second and headed to third forcing a throw that sailed into foul territory allowing him to come in to score. A Kevin Kline double followed by a single from Brad Royer and a walk for Taggart Lunceford would then load the bases, but Oakland was able to get a fly ball and an out on a play at the plate to end the inning.
The Golden Grizzlies battled back to level the game in the top of the sixth. OU shortstop Tim Ryan led off the inning with an infield single and then reached second on a sacrifice bunt. Aaron Cieslak then drove an RBI double into deep centerfield to plate the tying run. Southern Utah was able to quickly retake the lead as Kline scored from third on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the frame. The Thunderbird third baseman got on base with a double down the left field line before moving to third on a base knock from centerfielder Brad Royer. A pitch in the dirt would then get away from the catcher allowing Kline to cross the plate, giving SUU a 2-1 advantage. Oakland rallied with three runs in the top of the eighth to go up 4-2.
The Grizzlies loaded the bases before a sacrifice fly from Cieslak brought the score to a 2-2 tie. Nolan Jacoby then singled up the middle to bring in two more runs for his team.
The Grizzlies held off the T-Birds for the final two frames to eventually advance with a 4-2 win.
Southern Utah starter Kelsey Outram (3-10) took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits over eight innings. Jason Hager (5-3) picked up the win after holding the Thunderbird to two runs on eight hits. Royer went 3-4 at the plate for the Thunderbirds while Rezac and Kline each scored a run. Oakland got a pair of RBI from both Cieslak and Jacoby.
Southern Utah baseball
Overall record: 571-970
Was discontinued once in 1990, but brought back in 1991
Began as a junior college, but moved to the NCAA Division I in 1988
Team has never advanced past conference tournament in postseason play
Career batting average leader: Mike Ryser (1985-87) .391 avg.
Career RBI leader: Keli'l Zablan (2006-09) 121 RBIs
Career home run leader: Nick Freitas (2008-09) 30 HRs
Career wins leader: James Anderson (2000-02) 16 wins
Career ERA leader: LaRon Unck (1976-77) 3.65 ERA