Tigers take advantage of big bats in GPAC sweep; have won 7 of last 8 gamesDakota Wesleyan baseball coach Steve Gust likes to remind his team that good teams need to come out on the winning end of close games and be able to come up with clutch hits in tight situations. The Tigers seem to be taking notes. Friday afternoon, DWU picked up its second walk-off win since March 24 as a part of its Great Plains Athletic Conference sweep of Northwestern College.
Dakota Wesleyan baseball coach Steve Gust likes to remind his team that good teams need to come out on the winning end of close games and be able to come up with clutch hits in tight situations.
The Tigers seem to be taking notes.
Friday afternoon, DWU picked up its second walk-off win since March 24 as a part of its Great Plains Athletic Conference sweep of Northwestern College.
The Tigers used a big hit from Casey Solem to pick up a 6-5 win in the first game of the day before picking up a 7-3 win in the nightcap at Cadwell Park.
“Teams like this, you need to be in those positions early in the season so you can be in those positions at conference time,” DWU coach Steve Gust said of the Tigers’ ability to win in tight situations. “I don’t know how many walk-off wins we’ve had, but it’s a couple, and that’s something that’s learned, too. It doesn’t just happen.”
Dakota Wesleyan is now 21-10 overall, 8-2 in the GPAC and has won seven of its last eight games.
The Red Raiders went up 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning of the first game and expanded their lead to 5-0 when Solem misplayed a fly ball and gave up a bases-clearing, three-run error.
Nick Loera started the fifth inning with a solo home run, however, and Solem had an RBI double, Mario Mendoza had an RBI groundout and Loera had a run-scoring single in the fifth to get DWU within one, 5-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Colin Hacker was hit by a pitch to start the inning, but the next two batters struck out. Clayton Grimstad kept the rally alive with a walk and John Greicar tied the game with an RBI single.
Solem started his at bat with a long fly to right field that ended up crossing the fence in foul territory, but he got the Tigers the win with a single up the middle.
“To win like that, teams have a huge advantage when they come back the second game,” Gust said. “We have the momentum and we carried it over. To win like that gives the winning team a boost and it demoralizes the losing team.”
Solem, who hit a walk-off home run in DWU’s 5-4, eight-inning win over Southwest Minnesota on March 24, finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Loera was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Ethan Opsahl picked up the win and improved to 5-1. He gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.
The Tigers took control early in the second game. Mendoza had an RBI single in the first inning and Grimstad had a sac fly in the second for a 2-0 DWU lead.
Northwestern rallied for two runs to tie the game in the third inning, but Solem and Mendoza hit back-to-back home runs to start the bottom of the inning and put DWU back on top, 4-2.
DWU added a single run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to add some insurance runs. Northwestern added a single run on reliever Nick Capucilli in the seventh, but he was able to hold on to secure the sweep.
Solem finished the nightcap 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Mendoza was 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Each player hit their seventh home run of the season. Loera was also 2-for-3 with an RBI.
“We’ve had a lot of good, quality at-bats, and that’s what you look for,” Gust said. “It’s not just home runs, it’s quality at-bats.”
Jeff Sanchez picked up the win and improved to 3-2 after throwing the first six innings. He gave up two runs on six hits and struck out three batters.
The Tigers are back at home Sunday when they host defending GPAC champion Nebraska Wesleyan at 3 p.m. The Prairie Wolves are currently 3-5 in league play and 7-8 overall. Nebraska Wesleyan was the only team besides the University of North Dakota to sweep the Tigers last season.
“We haven’t forgotten what they did to us (last year),” Gust said. “I think they were one of few teams that swept us. If we want to be the best, we have to go through the best. I think the guys are looking forward to the challenge.”