NEW ULM, Minn. – The North Central University baseball team made the trip south for a UMAC doubleheader against Martin Luther College. Continual growth over the course of the season paid off for NCU in a sweep of both games with scores of 5-3 and 5-3. For the first time in program history, North Central earned consecutive wins versus a conference opponent. This also marked the first time the Rams won more than one UMAC game in a season.
In Game 1, NCU starting pitcher, Grant Payne highlights the individual achievements. On the mound, he went the full distance pitching his first career complete game, only giving up three runs on eight hits. It took the first inning to settle in as the Knights scored two in the first, but Payne only allowed one run the rest of the way. He produced a solid day at the plate, earning two hits on four at-bats.
North Central answered Martin Luther quickly in the top of the second. With one out and runners on second and third base, Eli Valder connected with a single to right field for an RBI, bringing Bryce Riege home to score. Robert Donohoe brought in the tying run with a sacrifice fly ball scoring Payne. In the next frame, the Rams extended their lead 4-2 when Brandon Scott earned his first RBI of the game, and Taylor Justice scored on a wild pitch. Scott earned his team leading 15th RBI on the season with a double in the fifth inning.
In Game 2, extra innings were required for the Rams to complete the comeback victory. Going into the ninth inning, North Central was down 3-1. Riege got on base with a leadoff single, and advanced to third after a wild pitch and a ground out from Payne. Jared High followed with another ground out, but earned an RBI, as Riege was able to advance to home plate. Consecutive hits from Valder and Donohoe put two runners on base with two outs. Blazsen Ferreira continued the successive hits with an RBI single to left field, scoring Valder and tying the game.
Ferreira took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and retired the ensuing three batters with two groundouts and a fly out. NCU continued their momentum as Knights pitcher, Noah Panzer, progressed into his 10th inning pitching. Scott and Riege each got their third hits of the game. The winning run came when Payne reached first on a fielder's choice, and Scott scored from third. High would extend the lead to 5-3 on a RBI double hit to center field. Jonathon Kutzke would come on to pitch, striking out two batters and earning the Rams first save of the season. Ferreira would earn the win, the second of the year.
Brandon Scott continued his strong hitting and extended his hit streak to six games. He has a hit in 16 of 19 games played in this season. He maintains the team lead in hitting percentage, .403, hits 27, and 15 RBI.
North Central (3-16, 2-6 UMAC) returns home for back-to-back nonconference doubleheaders versus Finlandia University (4-20) on Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22. The scheduled first pitch on Friday is set for 3:00PM, and Saturday 12:00PM in Coon Rapids, Minn.