ST. LOUIS, MO. — The biggest day of the 2012 University of Missouri-St. Louis baseball season turned into one of the best days in program history Sunday afternoon, as the Tritons swept both games of a doubleheader from rival Drury University, and by doing so, kept their once-believed impossible, but now certainly within reach, playoff hopes alive pending the outcome of Tuesday’s regular season finale against Missouri S&T.
The Tritons knew before the weekend began that they needed to win at least three of the four games they would play on Saturday and Sunday against Drury, to have any shot at making the postseason this year, which would be the first time for UMSL since 2004.
And the Tritons, with as much guile and courage as one could possibly imagine, did just that this weekend — first by splitting a road doubleheader against the Panthers in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday, and then by claiming both games on Sunday, at the UMSL Baseball Field, by scores of 7-2 and 5-4.
The Tritons, who were 8-14 heading into play on April 1, have won 20 of their last 25 ballgames, and are now 28-19 on the year.
That mark includes a 19-14 record in Great Lakes Valley Conference games this year, which at the moment is good enough for the eighth seed in next weekend’s GLVC Championship Tournament in Evansville, Ind.
But UMSL isn’t quite done with its work just yet.
The Tritons have one game left on the regular season schedule, Tuesday afternoon at the UMSL Baseball Field against newly-crowned GLVC West Division champion Missouri S&T.
This game is a makeup contest of one of three that was rained out when the teams were supposed to play four games on April 28 and 29.
The Tritons and Miners were instead only able to get one game in, so a makeup date was set for Tuesday, May 8, at 2:30 p.m.
Who knew that one single game, would somehow become the biggest game in UMSL baseball history, since the team was still called the Rivermen and playing for the GLVC Championship in 2003?
Well, no one could’ve. And it only became possible because of the unbelievable work the Tritons did against the Panthers on Saturday and Sunday.
UMSL actually had at least a three-run lead in all four games, and could’ve won them all. But the Tritons had to settle for just three wins, because Drury managed to come back and win the second game on Saturday.
On Sunday though, UMSL made sure to make the plays to put Drury away.
In Game 1, it was an offense led by juniors Taylor Holman, Charlie Mohr, and Nolan Craig, and another complete-game pitching effort by senior Adam Radick that led the way.
Holman launched his first home run of the season to get the Tritons on the board, Mohr added two hits and three RBIs, and Craig was 4-for-4 with an RBI, as UMSL banged out 12 hits and seven runs against Drury freshman Tyler Abma.
Radick (5-4), whose only mistake was a two-run home run ball he gave to Drury slugger Matt Borgschulte, threw UMSL’s 26th complete game of the year — one short of the all-time team record of 27 set in 1975 — and held Drury to just six hits, with five strikeouts to pick up his fifth win of the year.
In the nightcap, senior Austin Schuler nearly helped this UMSL club tie the record, with eight brilliant innings of one-run, five-hit ball, with six strikeouts and just two walks.
The Tritons scored four times in the bottom of the eighth, sparked by RBI hits by Lucas Matecki and Craig, and led 5-1 going into the ninth.
But in Sunday’s nearly 100-degree heat, even a 6-foot-4, 215-pound north Texas native like Schuler couldn’t go any longer, so he gave way to junior relief ace Kyle Renaud.
Unfortunately, Renaud nearly gave every Triton fan in attendance a heart arrhythmia, by allowing all four batters he faced to reach without retiring anybody.
But teammate Brett Wolf saved the day and the game, by inducing three straight groundballs, including a dynamite double-play on the last play of the game, that allowed UMSL to escape with the 5-4 win.
UMSL has now won the season series against all its divisional opponents, except Rockhurst and Missouri S&T, and they’ll get their chance to even the season series with S&T on Tuesday.