MORAGA, Calif. - The Saint Mary's baseball team needed a little extra time but treated the Gael faithful to a thrilling win in the bottom of the 10th inning on Sunday afternoon at Louis Guisto Field. The winning run came by way of a suicide squeeze off the bat of senior second baseman Chris Murphy that was executed perfectly.
The late inning heroics started in the bottom of the ninth for Saint Mary's (3-0), down a run with two outs, Southern Utah (0-3) was an out away from avoiding the sweep when freshman Collin Ferguson stepped up to the plate for his first collegiate at bat. After seeing a breaking ball fall out of the strike zone for ball one, Ferguson squared up a 1-0 fastball and launched it over the right field fence to send the game into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th SMC's reliever Thomas Cortese (1-0) led off the inning hitting the leadoff hitter. After a sacrifice bunt and a walk the Thunderbirds had runners at first and second with one out when Brenden Kalfus saved the day. The Gaels' right fielder came up throwing on a base hit to right field by Southern Utah's Bo Cuthbertson and threw out the base runner David Ricker at home who tried to score from second.
Which brought the Gaels up in the bottom of the 10th inning, Southern Utah's reliever Matt Nelson (0-1) came out for his third inning of work and it proved to be an inning too long. He led off the tenth walking Patrick Wisdom on six pitches, Kalfus moved Wisdom over with a base hit to left field. Wisdom advanced to third on a fielder's choice by Shawn O'Brien, bringing up Murphy, who laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and beat out the throw to first easily.
The game started off a pitcher's duel as both sides combined to scatter six hits through eight complete innings. Starting for the Gaels was sophomore righty Kurt Jahnke. Jahnke pitched six complete innings, scattering two hits, with two walks and five strike outs. The six innings pitched and five strike outs are both career-bests.
Southern Utah's starter Joe Karlik also had an impressive 2012 debut, as he held Saint Mary's to three hits with four walks and four strike outs over six innings.
The Gaels had their chances early, in the bottom of the second SMC loaded the bases with two outs when Cole Norton smashed a ball through the right side, it easily would have scored two runners but unfortunately the ball clipped Donald Collins attempting to avoid the ball while heading to second which ended the inning.
Patrick Keane pitched two scoreless innings, recording three strikeouts in his 2012 debut. Jordan Mills made his second appearance of the series, going one inning, allowing two hits, one earned run and a walk.
In all three games this series none of the Gaels starters allowed an earned run. With the win, the Gaels are 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 1994, and earned an opening weekend sweep for the first time since the Gaels took three-straight from Santa Clara in 1979.
Saint Mary's returns to action tomorrow, Monday, February 20 at 2:00 p.m., when the Gaels travel to Sacramento to take on the Hornets of Sacramento State.