WHITEWATER, Wis. – St. Thomas opened defense of its NCAA baseball title on Wednesday with a convincing 14-6 win over Carthage in the first round of the Midwest regional tournament, but the situation was a little unsettled at the beginning.
Pitcher Matt Schuld, gunning for his 10th win of the season and 30th of his career, coughed up three runs in the first inning and one in the second and the No. 5-ranked Tommies fell into a 4-0 hole. It was an uncharacteristically rough start for Schuld.
Never fear. St. Thomas bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the second on a homerun by catcher Brady Field and added four in the third and five in the seventh to pull away from the Red Men and advance in the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
“I just wasn’t hitting my spots early,” Schuld said, “and I was inconsistent with the walks.” He gave up five walks – one in each of the first five innings – and 10 hits over eight innings in improving to 10-1 for the year and 30-5 in his career.
The Tommies (34-7), who have won five in a row and 13 of their last 15, advance to play at 4 p.m. Thursday against UW-Stevens Point. In the first game, host UW-Whitewater defeated Aurora 4-1.
Nobody in the St. Thomas dugout seemed worried by the early 4-0 deficit to Carthage, including Schuld’s batterymate. Field followed up two homeruns Saturday against Augsburg with his second-inning clout off Carthage starter Danny Dahm.
“I looked at a fastball right down the middle,” Field said. “He came back with another fastball and I let it rip. I saw the leftfielder running back, thought it might have a chance and then it went out.”
Why the late-season tear at the plate?
“I adjusted my stance before the St. Olaf games (May 8 ) and I have been hitting the ball better,” he said. “I went from an even stance to a more open stance, and it has made a big difference.”
Big, indeed. Since that St. Olaf doubleheader, Field has hit .444 with 11 hits, 12 RBI, nine runs scored and those three homeruns. He was on base in all six plate appearances Sunday and four more times on Wednesday, with only a strikeout marring his scorecard.
Field and four other Tommies – Matt McQuillan, Roy Larson, Tayler Rahm and John Bauer – had multiple-hit games against Carthage’s four pitchers. Four straight hits keyed the four-run third, and St. Thomas added five runs in the seventh on three walks, three singles and a hit batter.