PHOTO by Caleb Williams, D3Photography
By DOUG HENNES
St. Thomas twice held leads of two runs but couldn't hold off Bethel Friday night in the MIAC baseball playoffs, losing 5-4 in 10 innings at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul.
The loss dropped the Tommies (19-17) into the losers bracket of the double-elimination tournament. They will need to win four games over the next two days to capture the playoff title, starting with a 3:30 p.m. Saturday matchup against Gustavus Adolphus. A loss would end St. Thomas' season.
The Royals scored once in the second and once in the fourth off St. Thomas starter Henry DeCaster to tie the game at 2. The Tommies went back on top in the fifth on another RBI single by Lust, who then scored on Sam Cobbs' double for a 4-2 lead.
DeCaster left the game with one out in the seventh after giving up two singles. On the next play, a throwing error on a grounder to reliever Ben Meyer allowed one Bethel runner to score, and a groundout to second brought in the tying run.
St. Thomas put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth on singles by Jake Smith and Lust, but a double-play grounder snuffed the rally.
In the bottom of the 10th, Bethel loaded the bases on a throwing error, a hit batter and a walk. Sophomore Shaun Falbo, who relieved Meyer during the inning, walked in the winning run with two outs.
• If the Tommies defeat Gustavus on Saturday, they then will play the loser of the noon winners' bracket game between St. John's and Bethel. Another St. Thomas win would mean the Tommies would need to defeat the St. John's-Bethel winner twice on Sunday to capture the title and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
• Friday night was the second straight game that Lust, a sophomore designated hitter, had three singles and two RBI. Third baseman Rock Cates also had three hits. Bethel left 15 runners on base and St. Thomas stranded 11.
• The loss to Bethel was St. Thomas' first of the season when they scored four or more runs; they had been 14-0 in such games.