MARYVILLE, Mo. — In the face of a looming rainstorm, a chilling wind and its own ill-advised base running, the Northwest Missouri State edged Rogers State 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Bearcat Field, leaning on strong pitching to complete a 3-game sweep of the Hillcats.
The win was largely thanks to freshman righty Zach Wiese, who allowed one run and struck out two across eight innings of work in Maryville. Wiese, though, credited the win to clutch hitting and a sterling defense playing behind him, which helped save a run in the top of the fourth inning via an outfield assist from junior right fielder Donovan Warren, who gunned down Rogers State’s Skyler Nelson at the plate with a laser from right.
Wiese again leaned on his defense to remove himself from a jam again in the bottom of the eighth, inducing a double play jump started by clean fielding from junior shortstop Jacob Pinkerton. Fed by Pinkerton, the turn from second baseman Peter Carlson onto senior first baseman Connor Quick ended the eighth inning and capped off a near-flawless performance from Wiese.
“Yeah, I was stoked that we got that double play,” Wiese said. “Our fielders do not make errors, so I just have to throw it down the middle. I got the double play and got out of it. I was so excited.”
For Northwest (6-6, 5-4 MIAA), the win came after nine innings of mostly missed opportunities. The Bearcats had a runner in scoring position in the bottom half of both the second and fourth innings without advancing either runner to third base. And while Northwest racked up eight hits in seven innings against Rogers State starter Corey Murphy, the senior lefty recorded eight strikeouts and held Northwest’s offense at bay until the fifth inning.
After Warren started the fifth frame with a single to right, a single from freshman catcher Caden Diel advanced the right fielder to second. Before center fielder Drew Mackie could single in Northwest’s next at bat, though, Warren was caught attempting a perplexing delayed steal of third base, making the first out of the inning. Mackie promptly delivered a base hit to right field two pitches later, one that likely would have scored Warren had he not been thrown out at third.
Following Mackie, sophomore third baseman Brett Holden singled to center to load the bases for junior second baseman Peter Carlson. Facing off with Rogers State’s Murphy in the most tense at-bat of the game, Carlson singled to left to bring Diel home, breaking the stalemate and giving Northwest a 1-0 lead. But still, the single ended the inning: Mackie was easily gunned down trying to score from second on the single while Carlson found himself caught on the base paths while trying to stretch his single into more.
“Yeah, I mean, we made some base running mistakes in that game ,” coach Darrin Loe said after the game. “Fortunately, it didn’t cost us. But (we’ve) just got to be a little bit smarter in those situations and not run us out of innings.”
Northwest held the 1-0 advantage until the top of the seventh, when Rogers State capitalized on a walk and a wild pitch from Wiese when outfielder Jerry Davis doubled to bring home Brandon Bradshaw. Davis was thrown out from right field after rounding second base and failing to retreat in time, marking the second outfield assist on the day from Warren. Still, the walk issued by Wiese coupled with the double from Davis left the game tied 1-1.
The Bearcats immediately responded in the bottom of the seventh, capitalizing on a mistake from Murphy, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings of work. After coaxing a groundout from Pinkerton, Murphy nailed Warren with a full-count fast ball, giving him a free pass to first. Warren took second on a wild pitch before Mackie drove him in with a two-out single to right, giving Northwest a 2-1 lead it would not surrender.
“To get a sweep in this conference is huge,” Loe said. “It came down to: we got good pitching — all weekend — and timely hitting. I think we’re still a long ways away from playing our best baseball.”
After Wiese escaped the eighth inning with help from his infield, right handed closer Alex Slocum needed similar help to secure the save in the top of the ninth. Slocum — who got a mound visit from Loe after throwing three straight balls to start the frame — walked sophomore Prescott Horn to start the ninth before inducing a grounder to third, which Holden fielded to start a 5-4-3 double play. Slocum gave up a single to Bradshaw before striking Davis out looking to end the conference matchup.
The heroics from Slocum and Wiese — along with Northwest’s clutch fielding and hitting — gave the Bearcats a sweep in the first matchup between the two programs. Northwest was en route to Claremore, Oklahoma, last March to play the MIAA newcomers when the conference’s season was suspended by COVID-19.
A full year later, the Bearcats welcomed Rogers State to the MIAA with three losses over the span of two days on a drury weekend in Maryville — but a successful weekend for Northwest.
“We really needed that,” Wiese said. “We were struggling a little bit with our record, but, you know — we turned it around and got the three wins. We’re really happy to have those going into next weekend.”