Point Park eliminated from KIAC Tournament with loss to IU Southeast, 5-4
May 1, 2015 at 11:30 p.m. ET
KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- Point Park University was eliminated from the KIAC Baseball Tournament on Friday night as IU Southeast scored the final three runs of the game for a 5-4 victory in the loser's bracket final.
Point Park (37-13, 16-4 KIAC) built a 4-2 lead with its main uprising of the game -- a three-run, three-hit fifth inning -- but the lead did not stand up as IU Southeast (37-17, 13-7 KIAC) pushed across the late runs to win.
Point Park, the No. 1 seed, is eliminated after taking its second loss on the day. The Pioneers lost to No. 2 Rio Grande, 6-3, earlier. Point Park, ranked No. 24 in this past week's NAIA Top 25 Poll, will have its fate on the National Selection Committee for a possible at-large bid to nationals.
IU Southeast, which beat No. 6 Asbury (Ky.), 8-4, earlier in the day Friday, has made it out of the loser's bracket and will meet Rio Grande (31-20) in the championship round Saturday at 1 p.m. Rio Grande must be defeated twice.
Point Park's 4-2 lead was built on its strong fifth inning. Trailing, 2-1, and with two outs and no one on, Stefan Mrkonja singled as part of his 4-for-4 day. That opened a door for the Pioneers, which had not been cracked open much at all versus Grenadiers starting pitcher Clint Chestnut.
Chestnut, the IU Southeast No. 2 starter who was saved all the way until his team's fifth game of the tournament, allowed just one run on five hits the first four innings. But after Mrkonja's base hit, Oscar Romero and Andy Chacon followed with consecutive, RBI doubles to bump the Pioneers ahead, 3-2.
Point Park even caught a break when Chaz Russo's sky-high pop up behind second base fell to the grass amid defenders rather than going for the third out. Chacon trotted home for a 4-2 lead.
Chestnut did get through six innings and was charged with four runs (two earned) and gave up eight hits. When IU Southeast got the tying runs in the top of the seventh, it got Chestnut off the hook for the loss.
Point Park starter Nolan Krivijanski pitched into the seventh inning but got a no-decision. He gave up four runs although the fourth-and-tying run was unearned as it came home on an errant throw.
The IU Southeast seventh inning started with Tyler Adams' single, and he was sacrificed to second on Grant Anderson's bunt. Jarret Young was then hit by a pitch, and Nick Pope's base hit loaded the bases with one out. That was it for Krivijanski, who left after 6.1 innings and seven hits.
Zach Zimmerman came out of the Pioneers' bullpen facing the bases-loaded jam. He hit the first batter, Marcus Howard, to force in a run. Alex Dapkus then grounded to third baseman Jordan Crowell, who threw home for the force out. Trying to get the inning-ending double play at first, the throw got away as Pope came around to score the tying run, 4-4.
With the game now in the hands of the bullpens, IU Southeast turned to left-hander Bryan Nacke in the seventh with a runner on at first and the score tied.
Edberg Dominguez, who had legged out an infield hit as the last man to face Chestnut, was bunted to second by Mrkonja.
Romero and Chacon had been the clutch hitters two innings earlier, but Nacke got them both to end the threat. Romero was retired on a deep drive to left, and Chacon on a pop up to center that nearly fell in on a bad read.
As the battle of the bullpens ensued, Zimmerman and Nacke each worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
With the score still 4-4, IU Southeast pushed across the eventual winning run in the top half of the ninth, albeit without a hit.
Zimmerman started Young and Pope each with an 0-2 count to begin the ninth. Each batter then survived four straight called pitches, and the final four pitches they each saw all went for balls.
Zimmerman got ahead of the next hitter, Howard, 1-2. Three tight pitches later, Howard was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Dapkus followed next with a sacrifice fly on a line to left field, and Young raced in without a contested throw for the go-ahead run.
Down to their last chance, Point Park got two straight outs to begin the ninth. Dominguez got the tying run on via a hit by pitch, and it moved into scoring position when Mrkonja got his fourth hit in four at-bats.
With Romero up, IU Southeast went to closer Evan Bickett. On a 2-1 pitch, he got Romero to bounce out to first base to end the game and earn his 14th save of the season.
Nacke (5-1) got the win in 2.2 innings of relief. He gave up just one hit -- with two outs in the ninth to Mrkonja -- struck out three and walked none. Zimmerman (1-2) was saddled with the loss with one run on no hits in 2.2 innings. He struck out two, walked two and hit two.
IU Southeast had gone ahead, 1-0, when Dapkus ripped a one-out triple in the first and scored on a ground out. After Point Park scored a run on an error in the second, the game remained 1-1 until the fifth. That's when Young produced an RBI single for IU Southeast, the third single of the inning.
The win for IU Southeast snapped a five-game, playoff losing streak to the Pioneers dating back to 2012. Point Park leads the series between the teams, 13-5, and 5-1 in the postseason, since then.