BROOKINGS, S.D. — The Omaha baseball team closed the book on the 2017 season Friday afternoon, falling 7-2 and 6-4 to South Dakota State in a doubleheader at Erv Huether Field.
GAME 1 — SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 7, OMAHA 2
Ethen Kenkel (4-1) picked up the win in the opening game, holding Omaha to two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out four over 5.0 innings. The loss went to Payton Kinney (3-3), who surrendered four runs on five hits and four walks while fanning four over 4.2 innings. Bryce Hanson earned his first save of the year for SDSU, throwing 4.0 shutout innings with just one hit and two walks alongside five strikeouts.
Ryan Cate was 2-for-4 to lead Omaha offensively.
SDSU’s 11-hit effort was propelled by Newt Johnson, who went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Tony Kjolsing was 2-for-5 with a double, and Anthony Schneider also drove in a pair of runs.
Omaha built an early 2-0 advantage after three innings, plating its first run in the second. Cole Patterson led off with a single to right, advanced on a Nate Mallott sacrifice bunt and scored on a Jack Kalina single through the left side and a fielding error on the play. The Mavericks added another run on one hit and an error in the third, as Riley Herold opened the inning by reaching and moving to second on a fielding misplay, then advanced on a Cate single to right and came in on a groundout.
SDSU opened up for four runs on three hits in the fifth to snatch the lead away from Omaha. The Jackrabbits tallied their runs with the help of a wild pitch, a Matt Johnson RBI single and another 2-RBI single by Schneider to make it 4-2.
The Jacks, who scored in four consecutive innings, scratched across another run in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames, which pushed the final score to 7-2.
GAME 2 — SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 6, OMAHA 4
SDSU reliever Hunter Even (2-2) recorded the win in the second game of the twinbill, tossing 3.0 scoreless, hitless innings with a trio of strikeouts and no walks. Cal Hehnke (1-2) was tagged with the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 4.2 innings. Chris Halbur earned his ninth save of the season with a one-hit ninth inning.
Sam Palensky finished 3-for-5 with a run scored in the final game of his career. Cole Thibodeau was also 2-for-5 with a run scored and another driven in, and Mallott was 2-for-4 while scoring once.
SDSU got multi-hit performances from Luke Ringhofer (2-for-3, two runs, one RBI) and Philip Jacobson (2-for-3, one run).
For the third time in the series and the fourth straight game, Omaha scored the first run of the ballgame to seize an early lead. In the top of the first, Thibodeau singled down the left field line, stole second and came in on an RBI infield single by Herold to make it 1-0.
The edge was short-lived, however, as SDSU chalked up four runs on four hits in the home half of the inning thanks to an RBI double by Ringhofer, a two-RBI single by Josh Kunzmann and an RBI single by Landon Badger.
Omaha promptly erased the Jackrabbit lead in the second, capitalizing on two errors and posting three runs with four hits. Mallott led off with a first-pitch single to center, and the Mavericks loaded the bases with an SDSU throwing error and a Palensky single to right. An infield single by Thibodeau then drove in Mallott for the Mavericks’ first score of the inning. Grant Suponchick followed with an RBI single to right to help Palensky cross, and Adam Caniglia managed to score on the play with the help of another fielding miscue, which put the game in a 4-4 tie.
Both teams were held without a run until the fifth, when Ringhofer walked, stole second and scored as Kunzmann reached on a fielding error to put SDSU ahead, 5-4. The Jacks notched an insurance run in the sixth with a Kjolsing sacrifice fly scoring Jacobson at 6-4, which held for the final tally.
Omaha caps the year with a record of 12-40 (9-19 Summit League), while the Jackrabbits finish the regular season at 24-22 (17-12) with an eight-game win streak heading into next week’s Summit League Tournament.