TULSA, Okla. – Summit League Player of the Year Spencer Henson hit a pair of solo home runs, including the go-ahead blast in the top of the fifth inning, and came on in relief to record the final out of game in leading Oral Roberts to a 5-2 victory over South Dakota State Thursday in the opening round of the Summit League Baseball Championship at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
With the loss, the second-seeded Jackrabbits, 27-21 overall, dropped into the losers' bracket, where they will face Western Illinois in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. ORU, which received an eight-inning performance from Josh McMinn, improved to 27-24, will meet top-seeded Omaha at 11 a.m. Friday.
Sophomore catcher Derek Hackman gave the Jackrabbits the early lead in the bottom of the second inning, tucking an opposite-field line drive just over the fence and inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer, scoring Luke Ira ahead of him. It was Hackman's second home run of the season.
ORU battled back with runs in each of the next three innings against SDSU starter Tyler Olmstead, all on solo home runs. Henson connected on his first home run in the top of the third, while Isaac Coffey added a blast to tie the game in the fourth.
Henson's second home run of the game and 19th of the season, to the left of the batter's eye in center field, came on the first pitch of his at-bat in the top of the fifth inning.
The Jackrabbits put together a two-out threat in the fourth inning, loading the bases on an infield single by Ira and consecutive walks to Hackman and Landon Badger. However McMinn recorded one of his 10 strikeouts in the contest to end the inning.
McMinn settled in from there, retiring eight of nine batters in one stretch en route to his seventh win of the season. He scattered seven hits and worked around four walks.
The Golden Eagles tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh. Riley Keizor drew a bases-loaded walk to force in one run and Andrew Pace plated the other run with a sacrifice fly.
SDSU brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in each of the final two innings, but was unable to come up with a clutch hit. Henson entered to pitch for ORU with two men on in the ninth, inducing a groundout to third off the bat of Gus Steiger to end the game.
The Jackrabbits, who out-hit ORU by an 8-7 count, stranded 10 men on base in the game. Ira and Badger each tallied two hits for SDSU.
Olmstead took the loss after striking out four, walking two and hitting two batters in 6 1/3 innings.
Oral Roberts leads the all-time series, 54-17, including 12-0 in Summit League tournament games
The season series between and SDSU and ORU is tied at three games apiece
SDSU dropped to 16-18 in its 10 appearances at the Summit League Baseball Championship
The Jackrabbits dropped to 19-11 in games this season in which they scored first
Olmstead upped his season strikeouts total to 92, taking over fourth place on the SDSU single-season charts by passing Layne Somsen (91 strikeouts in 2013)
Olmstead also moved into third place on the SDSU single-season innings pitched chart with 95 1/3 innings as he passed both Somsen (91.1 in 2013) and Adam Bray (91.1 in 2015)
Olmstead is now tied with teammate Ryan Froom for seventh place in career strikeouts at SDSU with 173
Hackman's other home run this season came on Opening Day (Feb. 15 versus UT Martin)
Nick Smith had his 10-game hitting streak snapped
Ira recorded his 15th multi-hit game of the season to take over sole possession of second place on the team