South Dakota State rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and received another strong relief performance from Bret Barnett to defeat Oral Roberts, 5-4, in the opening game of a key three-game Summit League baseball series Friday afternoon at Erv Huether Field.
With their sixth consecutive win against league foes, the Jackrabbits extended their lead over ORU for second place in the Summit standings to three games by improving to 17-8 in league play and 25-18 overall. SDSU remains two games behind Omaha for the top spot in the standings with five to play.
ORU dropped to 23-22 overall and 14-11 in league play.
Freshman Luke Ira started the game-winning rally with a double to left center off ORU starter Josh McMinn. Ira moved up a base on an outfield fly, which was followed by Drew Beazley being hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners.
Errors on consecutive plays opened the door for the Jackrabbits to tie the game at 4-all. First, Nick Smith hit a one-hopper to second base that, instead of resulting in a potential inning-ending double play, was instead booted, allowing Ira to score and sending Beazley to second. Gus Steiger then lined a solid single to left-center field which plated Beazley. However, the ensuing throw to try to get Smith at third base was offline and trickled into the third-base dugout to send Smith home with the tying run and advance Steiger to third.
Two batters later, Braeden Brown gave SDSU its first -- and only -- lead of the game with a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Steiger.
Barnett, a sophomore left-hander from Indianola, Iowa, made the lead stand up as worked around leadoff singles in each of his two innings of work. He notched strikeouts on each of the final five outs he recorded, including the last one with the tying run at third in the top of the ninth, to secure his sixth save of the season.
ORU and SDSU traded runs in the third inning to open the scoring. The Golden Eagles scored without a hit in the top of the frame after consecutive walks issued by Jackrabbit starter Tyler Olmstead, a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly.
Steiger connected on his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center with two outs, to knot the game in the bottom of the third.
The Golden Eagles scored single runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to build their lead to 4-1. Jake McMurray drove in two of the runs with a groundout and sacrifice fly, while Andrew Pace delivered a single up the middle to plate an unearned run in the sixth.
Olmstead struck out six and walked four over six innings, in which he allowed three runs. Brady Moxham struck out the only batter he faced to end the top of the seventh and was credited with the victory.
For ORU, McMinn struck out four and walked one while scattering seven hits. Only two of the five runs he allowed were earned.
SDSU finished with a 9-6 advantage in hits and was led by Logan Holtz's 3-for-3 day at the plate, which included a double. Pace tallied two hits for the Golden Eagles.
The middle game of the three-game series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. The 10-member Jackrabbit senior class will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
• Oral Roberts leads the all-time series, 52-17, although the Jackrabbits lead the season series by a 3-1 count
• All four games between the two squads this season have been decided by one run
• Steiger posted his team-leading 20th multi-hit game and 13th multi-RBI performance of the season
• Olmstead has pitched at least six innings in all nine of his starts in Summit League contests this season
• Olmstead upped his season strikeouts total to 81, which ranks eighth on the SDSU single season charts as he passed Adam Bray (80 strikeouts in 2015) on Friday
• Olmstead also took over 10th place in career strikeouts at SDSU with 162, passing Chad Coley (157 strikeouts from 1990-93)
• Barnett lowered his earned run average to 1.55 and has struck out 38 batters in 29 innings
• Ryan Froom is the scheduled starter for the Jackrabbits on Saturday
• The Jackrabbits improved to 5-0 at Erv Huether Field this season