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Cougars’ Season Ends in Painful Fashion

Kelby Beste, University of Sioux Falls Cougars
University of Sioux Falls

WINONA, MN — It was a hard, hard way to end what has been a hard luck season for the University of Sioux Falls.

The Cougars (20-24, 14-14) was fighting to keep its season going on Sunday afternoon at Winona State’s Loughrey Field, but after posting a split with the Warriors, USF will play its next game in 2014.

USF won the opener 4-2 and had the tying run at the plate in the nightcap but Winona State (22-15, 16-7) held on for a 9-8 victory in what was a live-or-die game for the Cougars, who fell one win shy of qualifying for the NSIC postseason tournament.

USF finished in ninth place in the standings while Bemidji State earned the eighth spot in a tiebreak over the Cougars.  Both teams finished with .500 win percentages in the league standings, but BSU defeated top seeded St. Cloud State once this season, while USF was swept by the Huskies.
Junior ace Derek Fischer (5-8) was brilliant in game one. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and walked three. The former Brandon Valley standout tossed 127 pitches and did everything but sell the hot dogs and popcorn, racking up a career-high 10 K’s in the complete game victory, his second win in as many days.

Winona State pushed across the first run of the game in the top of the first thanks to a pair of Cougar errors. USF took its first lead in the third inning. Senior Zach Ireland smashed a single to right field to plate Noah Durkin, who had singled and stolen second base. Fellow senior Corey Vasquez doubled Ireland home to give USF the 2-1 advantage.

Winona State evened things in the fifth but the Cougars used some small ball in the bottom half to regain the lead. Durkin drew a lead-off walk and stole third after being moved to the keystone base on Ireland’s sacrifice. He crossed home plate on a battery error to move USF in front 3-2.

Senior Keith Cutler added an insurance run in the sixth with a solo home run.

Things got dicey in the bottom of the seventh when the Warriors loaded the bases with two outs but Fischer would prevail, capping an eight-pitch battle with a strikeout to preserve the win.

The Cougars out-hit Winona State 6-4 and committed three errors on defense.

USF got off to a horrific start in what was a must-win situation in game two. Winona State put a three-spot on the board in the top of the first and tacked on one in the third before chasing USF starter Henry Ojeda (3-5) with a three-run fourth that gave the Warriors a commanding 7-1 advantage.

Cutler made a dent with his second homer of the day, this time a solo shot down the right field line, in the Cougars’ half of the fourth and Kelby Beste followed with a one-run bomb in the sixth that landed on a passing train to make it a 7-3 ballgame.

Winona State scored its eighth tally in the top of the seventh on an outfield base hit after Cougar senior reliever Steve Schroer issued a walk and an intentional base on balls. The Warriors had men on first and second but Schroer fanned the next batter to limit the damage.

The Cougars kept chipping away in the seventh. Ryan Fobes was hit by a pitch and later scored on a fielding error and Durkin scored on a double-play ball to cut the deficit to 8-5.

Schroer retired the side in the eighth but USF couldn’t escape the ninth without giving up what would stand as the game-winning run.  The Warriors sandwiched two singles around a fielder’s choice to put men at first and second. Schroer struck out WSU senior catcher Kyle Sill to put two outs on the board before the decisive flaw came.Jordan Plamann hit a line drive to right center that allowed the man on second to score.

The Cougars put together a vicious rally in the ninth to put the tying run at the plate with two outs. Ireland reached on a lead-off error and was doubled home by Vasquez, who advanced to third on a passed ball. Two outs later, Beste drilled a two-run homer to left field to put the Cougars within a run at 9-8. But the clock struck midnight for the Cougars when Trevor Crow grounded out to third base to end the game.

Ojeda took the loss, yielding seven runs on eight hits. He walked one batter and did not record a strikeout. Schroer worked the final 5.2 innings and was solid in long relief, allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and three K’s.

Beste finished 3-for-5 with three runs batted in and two home runs. Cutler also homered while Vasquez and Fobes each recorded an RBI.

Winona State out-hit the Cougars 12-9.

Sunday’s double-header were the last collegiate games for 11 USF seniors: Corey Vasquez, Zach Ireland, Keith Cutler, Damian Kardas, Steve Schroer, Andrew Christensen, Clayton Kibbie, Danny Hughes, James Rader, Austin Burke and Mark Vig.

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Courtesy:  University of Sioux Falls

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