No. 9 Augustana Baseball clinches Central Region I Championship

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Two days after a 12-10 come-from-behind win over No. 8 seed Oklahoma Baptist, top-seed Augustana held off a late charge from the Bison in Saturday's Central Region I Tournament championship game, and hung on for an 8-6 win.

The defending national champion Vikings advance to the NCAA Super Regional with a 43-14 record, and host either Central Missouri or Central Oklahoma for a spot in the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament next week. The Bison close the season with a 35-21 record.

In front of a crowd of over 500 people, the Vikings were aided by a great atmosphere at their home park.

"To look behind home plate and see everyone supporting you definitely helps us out," said freshman starting pitcher Seth Miller, who recorded the win today. "The crowd was great and we could not have gotten the wins without their support."

Augustana capitalized on an Oklahoma Baptist miscue to score an unearned run on a Ryan Nickel single in the bottom of the first to take the early lead, but the Bison bounced back in the top of the second, getting a two-RBI double from Brett Bloomfield for a 2-1 lead into the Augie half of the second.

The Vikings tied it up in their half of the second on a Michael Svozil sacrifice fly, and then took a 3-2 lead on a Nickel sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.

Both starting pitchers settled-in after that, and put zeroes on the board for the next two-and-a-half innings, before the Vikings broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fifth on RBI singles from Jordan Barth and Nate Crossman that gave Augie a 5-2 lead after five complete.

The Bison got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth on a Joey Pledger RBI single to cut the Vikings lead to 5-3, but Augustana got RBI singles from Barth and Will Olson, along with an RBI fielder's choice on a bunt from Crossman in the seventh to break the game open with an 8-3 Vikings lead.

Not going down without a fight Jake Gozzo belted a two-run blast in the top of the ninth with one out to cut the Augie lead down to 8-5. Three batters later, Bartolome belted an RBI single through the left side to cut the lead to 8-6, but the Bison ran out of outs with the tying run at plate.

The Vikings finished the game with 12 hits, all singles, from eight different players. Barth led the way, going 3 for 4 with a pair of RBI. Olson and Bjorn Hanson both added a pair of hits, while Nickel and Crossman both drove home a pair of runs.

Miller picked up the win for the Vikings. He tossed five and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on six hits to improve to 6-3 on the season. Thomas Bruss earned the save with three and one-third innings pitched to finish off the game for Augie.

Augustana advances to the NCAA Super Regional, hosted by the Vikings on Friday and Saturday at Karras Park, home of Ronken Field. The Vikings host either Central Missouri or Central Oklahoma beginning on Friday at 6 p.m., with Saturday's game starting at noon, and the "if necessary" game also on Saturday.