Oral Roberts found its back against the wall after a tough 3-2 loss to Omaha on Friday in the Summit League Baseball Tournament at J. L. Johnson Stadium.
But freshman Isaac Coffey stepped up in a big way with the first complete game of his young career, a 4-0 shutout against South Dakota State to keep the Golden Eagles’ championship quest alive.
ORU (28-25) and Omaha (30-21-1) will play a rematch at 11 a.m. Saturday. An ORU victory would force a second championship game at 2:30 p.m.
“This is not anything new for our guys,” ORU coach Ryan Folmar said. “You’ve got to win Game 1 to get to Game 2. We have to make sure we’re first-pitch ready.”
Coffey was first-pitch ready, as he finished with a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed just five hits and no walks.
“My arm felt good,” Coffey said. “My fastball was my best pitch. I knew I had to pitch my heart out for these seniors.”
The Jackrabbits (28-22) had their best chance when they put runners on the corners with one out in the first inning. Coffey induced a double-play grounder and then was perfect over the next four innings.
South Dakota State got its three other hits in the sixth inning. On the last of those, ORU’s Trevor McCutchin threw out a runner at home with a strong throw from right field. Coffey retired nine straight from there.
“We have to come out and give it our all tomorrow,” Coffey said. “We’ve got the talent. We’ve just got to execute and play our best.”
Andrew Pace drew a leadoff walk for the Golden Eagles in the second and eventually came home on a Blake Hall single with two outs.
Hunter Wilson singled with one out in the third, moved up to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on Riley Keizor’s double to the gap in right-center.
ORU added two runs in the ninth, aided by three errors from the Jackrabbits.
“Isaac was in complete control for nine innings and showed great composure,” Folmar said.
Against Omaha in the first game, the Golden Eagles got RBI singles from Keizor and Coffey in the first inning.
The Mavericks cut their deficit in half with one out in the top of the fourth. Ben Palensky walked and Thomas Debonville followed with an RBI triple to right field. Jack Lombardi won a battle with ORU starter Matt Gaskins that resulted in another walk. A double play helped ORU escape that jam.
The seventh inning turned out to be the difference for the Mavericks. It started rather innocently when Breyden Eckhout reached on an infield single. Keil Krumwiede laid down a sacrifice bunt, and a throwing error on the play allowed Eckhout to score and Krumwiede to reach third.
Krumwiede scored on Parker Smejkal’s sacrifice fly.
The Golden Eagles still had one last chance in the bottom of the ninth. Hall led off with an infield hit, moved to second on a sacrifice and to third on a fielder’s choice. But Wilson grounded out to shortstop to seal the deal for Omaha.
ORU 4, South Dakota STATE 0
ORU 011 000 002 — 4 8 0
SDSU 000 000 000 — 0 5 3
Coffey and Keizor; Froom, Suhr (9), Barnett (9) and McDonald. W: Coffey (3-2). L: Froom (6-5).
OMAHA 3, ORU 2
Omaha 000 100 200 — 3 8 0
ORU 200 000 000 — 2 7 2
Machado, Brighton (8) Hehnke (9) and Bonar; Gaskins, McCutchin (7), Wolf (9) and Keizor. W: Machado (6-2). L: Gaskins (5-5). S: Hehnke (7).