It was another blistering cold day Tuesday at the Koch Diamond, but that didn't stop the flame-throwing tandem of Dylan Thomas and Steve Maher from dishing out dominant back-to-back complete-game performances in a showdown between the only two unbeaten MIAC teams.
The two junior-college transfers combined for 22 strikeouts in 14 innings to help lead No. 5-ranked St. Thomas to a doubleheader sweep over St. John's.
The Tommies ran their win streak to 11 as they won 2-1 and 5-0 and handed the Johnnies their first MIAC defeats.
UST (20-4 overall, 8-0 MIAC) has swept 10 consecutive conference doubleheaders since April 2011. The Toms had no errors on the day and lowered their overall team ERA to 2.33.
St. John's (16-8, 4-2) was held to five hits and one run on the day. UST opened up a two-game lead in the conference race over second-place Macalester (6-2), which had two close home wins over Bethel.
Game one began as a pitchers duel between Maher and Johnnie ace Hayden Zimmerman. The Tommies scrapped together a run in the first on a Dan Reichert RBI single and the Johnnies brought across a run in the top-half of the fourth on a Bert Marsnik sacrifice fly. The score remained tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning when UST erupted. Charles Bruchu singled to center with one out, stole second and scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by a red-hot Dylan Thomas. Over his last five contests Thomas is batting .429 with three RBI. Reichert followed with an RBI single up the middle for a 3-1 lead.
Maher (8-0) struck out 11 and held St. John's to just four hits, two walks and one run in the complete-game outing in game one. The sophomore RHP, a junior-college transfer, lowered his season ERA to 1.29 and now has five complete games in seven starts to go along with two shutouts.
Maher’s day wasn’t just all smooth sailing; he had to work out of jams in both the fourth and sixth innings before shutting the door. In the sixth, leadoff walks to Joey Long and Max Forster put runners on first and second with no outs, both promptly moved up to second and third on a Connor Cline ground out. Bert Marsnik then bounced a slow roller to Dan Reichert at first base who immediately spun to his left and fired home to catcher J.D. Dorgan to retire Long trying to score. After Luke Larson reached on a strikeout/wild pitch to load the bases, Maher got pinch-hitter Jeremy Klein to strikeout looking to end the threat.
Maher outdueled Zimmerman, who allowed six hits, two earned runs and one walk with three strikeouts over six innings. Zimmerman retired 14 Tommies in a row from the first inning into the top of the sixth when Charles Bruchu singled to center snapping the streak. It was only Zimmerman’s second career start versus the Tommies, the prior coming in the MIAC elimination game back on May 14, 2010 when UST defeated the Johnnies 5-0.
Game two was another battle of hard-throwing right-handers as Dylan Thomas (3-2) matched up against SJU’s Connor Cline (4-3). Thomas and Cline grew up playing with and against one another, both graduated in 2009 after playing four years in the Lake Conference. The two former Lions All Star Game teammates battled each other pitch for pitch until UST opened the scoring in the bottom of the fifth.
Tommie right fielder Jack Hogan walked to lead off the inning then stole second, and after moving up to third on a wild pitch UST shortstop Jon Kinsel then singled to center for the game’s first run. Another walk, stolen base and single followed before to load the bases for Tim Kuzniar, who lifted a high sacrifice fly into centerfield giving the Tommies a 2-0 advantage. Then with one-out Bruchu singled into left field scoring Justin Novak and giving UST the go-ahead 3-0 lead. Ben Podobinski’s two-run RBI single in the sixth inning capped the Tommie scoring surge giving Thomas a commanding 5-0 lead.
All Thomas needed was just one run as he tossed a one-hit complete-game shutout issuing no walks and matching Maher’s 11 strikeouts. He hit one batter in the fifth inning to lose the perfect game and gave up a Dylan Graves' leadoff double in the sixth inning to lose the no-hit bid, but the junior righty remained potent and efficient. Only three SJU hitters managed to get the ball out of the infield in game-two, the first five Johnnies hitters struck out to start the game, and two of the final three batters on the day fanned. Thomas has won his last two starts, both in a seven-day span. On the afternoon, the DMACC transfer picked up his first collegiate complete game, shutout, game-winning hit and stolen base.
On the day for UST, Dan Reichert was 3-for-6, Jon Kinsel was 2-for-4, Bruchu was 2-for-5 and Podobinski and Kuzniar were each 2-for-6.
The Tommies (20-4, 8-0) will try to extend their winning streak on Saturday when they travel to Northfield to take on St. Olaf at Carlander Stadium in Jim Dimick Baseball Complex. The MIAC doubleheader is set to begin at 1 p.m.
Click here for Game 1 box score:
Click here for Game 2 box score:
Click here to view more Greg Smith action photos:
Tim Kuzniar (Greg Smith photo)
Steve Maher (Greg Smith photo)
J.D. Dorgan tags out a runner (Greg Smith photo)
Charles Bruchu (Greg Smith photo)
Jon Kinsel (Greg Smith photo)
Dan Reichert (Greg Smith photo)
Jon Kinsel (Greg Smith photo)
Justin Novak (Greg Smith photo)
Ben Podobinski (Greg Smith photo)