Cole Metcalfe wasn’t entirely sure what he was swinging at, but the Bellarmine University baseball senior third baseman sure liked the result.
Metcalfe roped a two-out, go-ahead three-run double in the ninth inning as the Knights rallied to defeat No. 18 Quincy 6-4 on Thursday in the opening round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament at Grand Park.
“It’s a tribute to them not packing it in,” Bellarmine Coach Larry Owens said after watching his Knights post four runs in the ninth. “They could have, but they kept pushing through. They fought. I’m proud of them.”
Behind Metcalfe’s dramatic blow, Bellarmine (25-24) advances to meet the winner of Southern Indiana-William Jewell at 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday.
The odds of that happening appeared minimal by the ninth as Bellarmine trailed 4-2. Quincy closer Teddy Rule entered and walked freshman right fielder Alex Phillips on four pitches, but he regrouped to record two strikeouts. Senior center fielder Jes Staples followed with a full-count walk, and sophomore left fielder Griffin Neuer reached on a critical error in the infield.
With the bases loaded, Metcalfe quickly found himself down 0-2. He fouled off two pitches and then recognized the next toss as a curveball. Then the pitch seemingly vanished on him.
“I saw (the curveball) out of his hand, but then I lost it, honestly,” Metcalfe said. “I just swung at it and hit it. It was a stroke of fortune.”
More like a sweet stroke … of fortune. Metcalfe smashed the ball into the left center field gap and cleared the bases. When Neuer touched the plate, Bellarmine had suddenly seized a 5-4 lead. Metcalfe then made a savvy base-running play, bursting around third base and diving just ahead of the throw from first on junior first baseman Nick Wright’s infield single.
“There’s 27 outs and we used every single one of them,” Owens said. “We cashed in when we had an opportunity.”
Quincy managed to get the tying run on first in the bottom half, but senior right-hander Evan McNair induced a fly out by No. 3 hitter David Jacob to seal the first-round victory. McNair (3-3) grabbed the win with 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.
While a fair amount of runs were scored, Bellarmine sophomore and newly crowned GLVC Pitcher of the Year Hunter Spencer and Quincy’s Jake Peterson both delivered strong starts. Chris Ward and Brynn Martinez lifted solo homers off Spencer, but he was able to keep the Hawks’ high-powered offense mostly in check and allowed four earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched. Peterson yielded two earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched.
“(Spencer and Peterson) did what they’ve done all year, and that’s throw the ball over the plate,” Owens said. “They throw strikes and those are the guys that always give you a chance.”
Neuer, sophomore shortstop Drew Greenwood and sophomore designated hitter Alex Ralph all collected three hits for Bellarmine. Metcalfe added a pair.
Ralph had RBI singles in both the second and seventh innings. Quincy scored one run apiece in the first, fourth, fifth and eighth innings.
“It was a hard-fought battle all the way through,” Metcalfe said. “It was good to scratch it out.”
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by Adam Pruiett