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Strong pitching leads DWU baseball to pair of wins at GPAC tourney

Dakota Wesleyan University second baseman Cole Wenande, a sophomore from Alexandria, turns a double play in the seventh inning against Morningside College during the first day of the GPAC baseball tournament Thursday afternoon in Mitchell. DWU beat Morningside 8-1 and beat Briar Cliff University 6-3 in its second game. DWU plays Midland University at 9 a.m. today at Cadwell Park. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

The Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team rode strong pitching to a pair of wins on the opening day of the Great Plains Athletic Conference baseball tournament Thursday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

Wes Snyder threw a no hitter in the No. 5 Tigers’ (26-22) 8-1 win over No. 4 Morningside College in the first game of the day for DWU. Snyder allowed one unearned run, walked eight, struck out five, and the Tigers committed two errors behind him in the win.

“Any time you get a nine-inning no hitter, it’s impressive,” DWU coach Steve Gust said about Snyder’s performance.

In the second game, left hander Kyle Larson took over on the mound for the Tigers in a 6-3 win over No. 8 Briar Cliff (16-33), which upset top-seeded Doane College in its opener. Larson pitched eight innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits, while walking four and striking out nine.

“My arm was ready to go today,” Larson said. “I was just trying to hit my spots and let my defense go to work behind me.”

DWU plays No. 3 Midland at 9 a.m. today at Cadwell Park, with the winner securing a spot in the championship round on Saturday. The Tigers will play two games today regardless of the outcome against Midland. If DWU wins, it plays at 7:30 p.m. today, and a loss puts the Tigers in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Both games are scheduled to be played at Cadwell Park. DWU last won the GPAC tournament in 2009.

“You get a bunch young guys on a roll and we saw today what can happen,” Gust said. “We got two incredible performances by our pitchers.”

Against the Mustangs, the Tigers got on the board in the first inning with two runs after Sam Schumacher drove in Ben Spitznagel with an RBI single. Schumacher scored later in the game on a Morningside error.

DWU finished with eight hits, as Spitznagel was 3-for-4 with four runs scored. Catcher Ben Ladner was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.

In the second game, DWU took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a home run by Jonah Johnson. After Briar Cliff tied the game in the top of the fourth inning, the Tigers built a 4-1 lead in the fifth. Tyler Johnson scored and Spitznagel was able to advance to third when Charger pitcher Gary Davis threw the ball over his first baseman’s head into the outfield. Spitznagel scored on a fielder’s choice and Jared Neilan drove in another run later in the inning for DWU.

The Tigers took a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning. Larson came out to the mound to try and close out the win, but walked the first batter he faced and was pulled after throwing 125 pitches. Joey Fitzgerald came in to finish the game for DWU. He walked two and allowed an RBI single, but got the final out to complete the victory.

“You come off a win against a very good Doane team and you hope to carry that over,” Briar Cliff coach Boyd Pitkin said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t play well enough to win that second game.”

DWU finished with 11 hits and no errors against Briar Cliff, which had seven hits and two errors.

Left hander Kevin Hatcher will get the start on the mound for the Tigers against Midland (41-16) today. DWU split two games against the Warriors earlier this season. Hatcher did not face Midland this season.

“Midland is capable of scoring a lot of runs and if (Hatcher) is not where he needs to be, they will score,” Gust said.