HUNTINGTON, Ind. – The hunt for a conference tournament title came to an end Tuesday afternoon for the 4th-seeded HU baseball team. After blanking top-seeded Mount Vernon Nazarene University earlier in the day, 6-0, the Foresters came up short of a second upset in an elimination game that favored the Cougars 4-3 at Forest Glen Park.
With this loss, Huntington wraps up the season with a 29-24 record while MVNU (42-9) moves on to the championship game today at 3:00 p.m. where they will face 3rd-seeded Spring Arbor University.
After relieving starting pitcher Tanner Wyse in the fourth, senior Derek McKinney (5-5) tossed the final 5.2 innings to pick up his team’s third shutout win of the season. He limited the Cougars to just three hits. Wyse did likewise during his tenure on the mound.
The two hurlers effectively shut down Mount Vernon’s offense, a squad averaging over seven runs a contest, by limiting the visitors to a batting average of .200, well below their current average of .335.
The duo had more than enough support from their teammates to hand the Cougars their sixth loss to a league foe. After TJ Lindstrand’s RBI-single in the bottom of the first to give HU an early 1-0 lead, he and Blake Ayers each sent one long to solidify the win. Lindstrand’s three-run blast came in the sixth and Ayers followed up with his two-run dinger in the seventh.
HU registered ten hits with Lindstrand, Ayers and Michael Crowley finishing with two hits apiece.
With only a short break before the second matchup, Mount Vernon didn’t take long to regroup as they raced out to a 4-0 lead after three innings of play. The Cougars plated three of their first four runs in the third behind three hits and a pair of Forester errors.
Huntington was far from waving a white flag as they responded by closing the gap to two at 4-2 in their next at-bat. After getting hit by a pitch to start the rally, Lindstrand made his way to third by way of an Avery Sneed single and eventually touched home a wild throw. Sneed also took advantage of the play to land at third before Dalton Combs drove him in on a double to left.
The bats were relatively quiet for both teams until the ninth when Huntington made one last push. Down to the final out, Dylan Henricks ripped an RBI-single to right to drive in HU’s third run of the contest. Ayers was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on first but Bryce Arledge made sure that scenario didn’t become reality by tallying his only strikeout of the contest to slam the door shut on a heroic comeback.
Henricks, Sneed and Crowley paced HU offensively with two hits each.
Starting pitcher John Ripke took the loss for Huntington. In 2.1 innings in the circle, he gave up five hits, four runs and a walk while striking out one.