DUNDAS – St. Thomas continued on its offensive rampage Sunday, capturing the MIAC playoff baseball title with a 19-9 win over Augsburg to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The Tommies will find out their destination and first-game opponent on Monday. The most likely site will be the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, which won the WIAC regular-season and playoff titles, but another option would be Augustana and the regional in Rock Island, Ill.
St. Thomas (33-7) became the first team in MIAC playoff history to lose its opening game (3-2 to Augsburg Friday afternoon) and win four straight elimination games to grab the title. The Tommies bounced back against St. John’s (5-0), outlasted Concordia (7-6 in 11 innings) and then pounded the Auggies 17-1 and 19-8.
It was a long weekend of baseball – five games and 47 innings in 49 hours – but in the end the Tommies’ pitching depth made the difference. Augsburg did score nine runs on Sunday, but couldn’t hold off St. Thomas over the last two games.
“We are starting to swing it,” Coach Chris Olean said after seniors Matt Schuld, Matt Olson, Roy Larson and Tom Wippler accepted the championship plaque. “The guys got really comfortable at the plate. They have been here (playoffs) before. They know how to turn it on. And they did.”
For the second straight day. homeruns keyed the St. Thomas 20-hit attack. After five homers against Augsburg on Saturday, Tommie batters added three on Sunday. Trailing 5-4 in the third, Drew Cremisino led off with a solo homer to tie the game. In the fourth, Roy Larson’s two-run shot put the Tommies up for good at 6-4, and two batters later Cremisino followed with his own two-run blast.
Six runs in that fourth inning put St. Thomas up 11-5. Augsburg added two in the bottom of the inning to narrow the gap to 11-7, but the Tommies put the game out of reach with five runs in the fifth on five singles and a walk.
Tony Eicher started on the mound for St. Thomas but lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up five runs (three earned). John Licht picked up the win in relief and was followed on the mound by Matt Nelson and Nick Gervais, who picked up the save by pitching the final 3.1 innings.
“Nick has a good knuckler, and they were chasing it,” Olean said of his tall freshman righthander from Totino Grace. “He set it up with his fast ball and it worked well.”
In the 11 years of the MIAC playoffs, the Tommies now have won eight titles. Sunday’s title game with Augsburg was a rematch of the 2005 finale, when the Tommies won 7-0.