Taylor Grimm hit a walk-off home run in extra innings during the opener as the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh swept a pivotal WIAC baseball doubleheader by identical 5-3 scores at UW-Stevens Point on Monday (May 7).
With the two victories, UW-Oshkosh are now alone in second in the WIAC standings. The Titans (28-7, 15-5 WIAC), ranked 11th in the NCAA Division III by D3baseball.com, are two games behind second-ranked UW-Whitewater (27-5, 17-3) with four games remaining.
UW-Stevens Point (24-14, 15-9 WIAC), which concluded its WIAC contests, fell to third place in the league.
UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point split their previous two games this season – a win at home by the Titans on April 12 and a victory by the Pointers in Mauston on April 26 – marking UW-Oshkosh's first season series advantage over UW-Stevens Point since also winning three of four games in 2008.
Alex Koch had a pair of hits in both games as UW-Oshkosh outhit the Pointers, 20-14, on the day. UW-Stevens Point committed six total errors, including five in the nightcap that led to three unearned runs.
In Monday's first contest, UW-Stevens Point starting pitcher Ben Miller was working on a six-hit shutout through eight innings until UW-Oshkosh tied the score at 3 during the ninth frame and walked off the win behind Grimm's two-run homer in the 10th.
Miller retired 14 of the previous 16 batters entering the ninth inning, when Grimm reached on an infield error to lead off the frame and Andy Brahier followed with his 40th career double. After Miller notched his 10th and final strikeout of the game, Koch broke up the shutout bid with a run-scoring single that concluded Miller's outing.
Koch stole second base against new Pointers pitcher Alex Stodola, who issued a walk to Logan Reckert to load the bases. Stodola responded with a strikeout, but Hunter Staniske singled up the middle to score both Koch and Brahier and send the game to extra innings.
The Pointers went down in order in the top of the 10th inning. Zack Radde drew a walk to begin the Titan 10th frame, and Grimm followed with his game-ending, two-run homer to left center field. The home run was Grimm's seventh of the year, tying him with Koch for the team lead.
UW-Stevens Point built its 3-0 advantage on a solo home run from Kyle Mrozinski in the fourth inning, a run-scoring single by Christian Zamudio during the sixth frame and an RBI single from Jordan Carlson in the ninth.
Lucas Gregory (4-3) earned his first career complete-game victory after allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits in 10 innings. Making just his seventh start in 49 appearances during his four years as a Titan, Gregory's 124-pitch performance Monday included two walks and four strikeouts.
UW-Oshkosh collected 11 hits – its 10th consecutive game and 26th overall in double digits this year – including two each from Brahier, Koch and Staniske.
Carlson and Tommy Duddleston had two hits apiece for the Pointers.
Stodola, who leads the WIAC with seven saves, fell to 0-2 on the year, yielding two runs on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning pitched.
Miller did not factor in the decision despite holding the Titans to three runs (none earned) on nine hits and zero walks in 8.1 innings pitched.
In the nightcap, the Titans led the entire way after scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Jack Paulson led off the UW-Oshkosh first frame with a single and eventually came around to score on a passed ball. Grimm added a sacrifice fly in the inning to extend his WIAC-leading total to 48 runs batted in this season.
Ryan Stanicek hit a solo home run to pull UW-Stevens Point within 2-1 in the third inning, but the Titans answered with the eventual game-winning runs during the fourth frame on consecutive sacrifice flies from Staniske and Jonathan Selchow.
The Pointers once again cut their deficit to one run following an RBI infield single by Payton Nelson in the fifth inning and a solo home run from Carlson in the sixth frame. However, UW-Oshkosh relief pitcher Chris Atwood entered the game following Carlson's homer and retired each of the final 10 Pointer batters to pick up his first career save.
The Titans capped the scoring on Reckert's sacrifice fly in the home half of the eighth inning. UW-Oshkosh's four sacrifice flies were one shy of the NCAA Division III record for one game. The current mark of five sacrifice flies has occurred just twice, last by Rutgers University-Camden (N.J.) in 2002.
Koch, Paulson and Selchow each contributed two of the Titans' nine hits while Nelson and Stanicek both accounted for two of the Pointers' six hits.
Ryan Wilkening (1-0), who picked up his first collegiate win in 17 appearances during his three years as a Titan, allowed two runs on four hits in 3.1 innings of relief. He had a career-best four strikeouts without issuing a walk.
UW-Stevens Point starting pitcher Drew Spaeth (3-4) suffered the loss, ceding four runs (two earned) on seven hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out five.
UW-Oshkosh travels to Carol Stream, Ill., this weekend for regular-season-ending doubleheaders against Illinois Institute of Technology on Friday and Saturday (May 11-12). The series is being held at Wheaton College's Lee Pfund Stadium due to a safety net breaking during an April winter storm at UW-Oshkosh's Tiedemann Field.
Photo courtesy of Kiley Bridenhagen