Pitching duel ends in walk-off fashionBy Elliott Propes | 02/28/2016 5:06pm
CW | Marie Walker
After taking two of three against No. 12 USC last weekend, the University of North Dakota baseball team traveled to Alabama for a weekend series. On Friday night, Alabama’s Geoffrey Bramblett and UND’s Zach Muckenhirn had a pitching duel, which came down to the bottom of the ninth when Keith Holcombe singled in the game-winning run for a 2-1 victory.
“It was one of those pitchers duels that you really have to grind and find a way and scratch a run,” coach Mitch Gaspard said. “With a little help of defensive miscues, we found a way and Holcombe put the ball on the ground and we had a little miscommunication there at third base, but it worked out and we will take the win.”
Holcombe said he missed a sign and saw Taylor run for home from third. So he had to swing to prevent Taylor from being caught in a run down. He made contact to bring him in.
“That’s one thing to get the job done and feel that excitement, but to turn around and see everybody sprinting towards you, you don’t really know what to do,” Holcombe said. “I love this team. I love this group of guys. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’m having a blast.”
Muckenhirn had pitched the first eight innings without an earned run and came back out in the bottom of the ninth. He was pulled though after Taylor hit one to the second baseman, who fumbled the ball for the third North Dakota error of the ballgame. UND then brought in Luke Hansen who hit Cody Henry with his first pitch. The next batter he threw a passed ball, which put the runners on the corners with no outs. Vance popped out, but then Keith followed with his walk-off.
Both of Alabama’s runs were unearned. The first came in the sixth inning. Chance Vincent, who had two of Alabama’s three hits, singled with one out. Gene Wood then laid down a sacrifice bunt that the catcher fielded and threw in the dirt. The first baseman could not corral it and Vincent advanced to third. This set up a sacrifice fly hit by Chandler Avant to give Alabama the lead. Muckenhirn finished with eight innings of work with 11 strikeouts and 2 unearned runs.
“Muckenhirn, their guy, was tremendous, really good as advertised. You can certainly understand how he shutout USC last week, and that was a 1-0 win,” Gaspard said.
North Dakota’s one run came in the eighth when Hunter Walsh took one of Bramblett’s pitches over the left filed fence to tie the game. That would be Bramblett’s last inning. He finished with six strikeouts and just one earned run.
“It was just a lot of fun with the energy we had going on, and with their guy being so good we had to,” Bramblett said. “It’s a guy you have to have high energy, high intensity against because you have to be able to scrap one out and we did."