In the tail end of Saturday’s doubleheader against Illinois Springfield at Knights Field, the Bellarmine University baseball team fell behind 4-0 and then 7-3 after two innings. The Knights committed three errors in that span. And it seemed like they were stricken with bad luck, as they lined out three times.
In short, it appeared a sweep was inevitable.
But the Knights weren’t having it, roaring back with potent offense led by sophomore right fielder Zac Wiley and a resilient pitching effort by sophomore left-hander Alex Phillips. Senior catcher Christopher Allen capped a dramatic comeback with a walk-off RBI single as Bellarmine rallied to defeat the Prairie Stars 9-8 in the four-game series finale after losing a lead in the final inning of the opener before falling 4-2 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play.
Bellarmine (23-15, 10-6 GLVC) and Illinois Springfield (21-15, 11-5) split the wild series. The Knights won the opener 8-2 despite getting outhit 12-7. In Games 2 and 3, Bellarmine held leads entering the final inning before the Prairie Stars completed comebacks. Another come-from-behind victory was delivered in Game 4, only this time by the Knights.
Illinois Springfield burst out to a 4-0 lead in the first, and after Bellarmine responded with three in the bottom half, the Prairie Stars added three more runs in the second for a 7-3 advantage. Wiley, who is hitting .433, was quiet over the first three games but made his presence felt in the finale.
He punched an RBI single in the third to cut it to 7-4, and after an RBI single by junior left fielder Griffin Neuer, smashed a two-out, two-run homer to left in the fifth to make it 8-7. Junior shortstop Drew Greenwood, locked in at the plate virtually the entire series, laced a two-out RBI single to tie it at 8 in the sixth.
In the seventh, UIS reliever R.D. Lutze (2-1) sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around walks to sophomore third baseman Josh Finerty and Wiley. He went 2-2 with Allen before Allen whizzed a single up the middle. The play at the plate was extremely close, with Finerty sliding home just ahead of the tag of catcher Ben Schanding with the winning run.
In the tail end, Wiley was 3 for 3 with four RBIs and his team-best eighth homer. He was a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Greenwood chipped in a pair of hits for his third-straight multiple-hit game of the series. Finerty scored three times.
Phillips had a gutsy effort on the mound. After allowing seven runs over the first two innings, he tossed four more frames and yielded only one run in that chunk. Junior right-hander Yancey Pritchett (3-0) fired a perfect seventh and claimed the victory.
Freshman right-hander Jacob Nagel came close to recording a shutout in the opener before UIS tied the Knights at 1 in the seventh and final inning. After the Prairie Stars scored a run in the eighth, Neuer tied it up again in the bottom half by blasting a solo shot for his fourth homer of the season. UIS countered with two runs in the ninth, and a comeback for Bellarmine wouldn’t come until the finale.
Greenwood had three hits in the opener, and Finerty added a pair.
Bellarmine hosts Indianapolis in doubleheaders next Saturday and Sunday.
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