RedStorm take MSC Title
Campbellsville, Ky. --- The University of Rio Grande RedStorm's magical season continued on Saturday with a pair of thrilling games that ended in walk-off fashion. Campbellsville forced a deciding game with a 6-3, 10-inning win in game one on a walk-off home run while Rio found some magic late in game two, scoring five runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship by a score of 8-5.
Rio Grande (47-11) fell behind 2-0 in the first game on a Brian Chase two-run home run. Home runs would play a huge role in how the day went for both teams.
The RedStorm battled back to tie the game at 2-2 in the top of third frame. Junior second baseman Christian Frias (Salinas, PR) began the inning with a single and later scored on a base-hit from junior first baseman Francisco Ramirez (Columbus, OH). Ramirez would score the tying run when he was doubled home by senior third baseman Tyler Schunk (Cincinnati, OH).
Rio would take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on an RBI hit from senior catcher Tyler Plumpton (Peterborough, ONT).
Campbellsville (40-20) would tie the game at 3-3 on a solo home run off the bat of Michael Caleb, which sent the game to extra innings. The Tigers would stay alive with a walk-off three-run blast from Logan Smith to send it to a decisive, winner-take-all finale at the MSC Tournament.
Frias, senior designated hitter Chris Mahon (Hamilton, OH) and senior rightfielder John Storey (Wheelersburg, OH) were all 2-for-4 at the plate to pace the RedStorm offense. Ramirez was 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI while Plumpton and Schunk added RBI hits.
Sophomore Ryan Chapman (Racine, OH) took the loss in relief for Rio Grande. Chapman (6-4) pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and three runs with one strikeout and one walk. Junior Desmond Sullivan (Scarborough, ONT) started and kept the RedStorm in the game. Sullivan lasted seven innings, scattering six hits and allowing three earned runs. He fanned six and walked two.
Eric Mattos (8-2) went the distance to get the win for the Tigers. He gave up 10 hits and three runs while striking out nine Rio batters.
Game two looked as if Rio was going to fail to clinch the title as the RedStorm trailed 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Rio plated five runs in its final at-bat to win the MSC Championship. The game concluded with the MSC's Player of the Year, Tyler Schunk, living up to his title by crushing a no doubt game-winning, walk-off grand slam. The series clinching blast was the only hit of the game for Schunk. He drove in six of the team's eight runs in the game.
Rio held a 2-1 lead after five innings of play. Campbellsville scored three runs in the sixth to take a 4-2 advantage. The RedStorm would add a run in the sixth to cut the deficit to one run at 4-3. The Tigers made the score 5-3 in the eighth.
Frias went 2-for-4 with a run batted in to lead the Rio offense. Mahon and Plumpton were both 1-for-2 while junior shortstop Brad Konrad (Maumee, OH) and senior centerfielder Ryan Yakura (Pickering, ONT) went 1-for-3 and junior leftfielder Michael Lynch (Cleveland, OH) was 1-for-4.
Schunk (11-2) was also the winning pitcher. He pitched the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and one run with one strikeout and one walk. Senior lefty Ryan Cramer (Olympia, WA) started the game and went four innings giving up two hits and one run.
Curtis Payne started the game for Campbellsville and lasted six innings in picking up a no-decision. Jared Lunardi gave up the grand slam home run to Schunk in the bottom of the ninth, which made a loser out of Spencer Frantz.
Rio Grande will now advance to the NAIA Region Tournament next week at a site to be determined.