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Waldorf knocks off No. 2 Bellevue in NSAA tripleheader

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy Matt Oliver

BELLEVUE, Nebraska – It was a down-to-the-wire-finish, but the Waldorf University baseball team prevailed with an upset win over Bellevue University during Saturday’s North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) tripleheader.

The Warriors (16-28, 12-8) secured a 7-6 victory in Game 2 to knock off the Bruins (39-7, 17-2), who are ranked No. 2 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll.

“It was a nail-biter toward the end, but it was a really fun game to be a part of and a really good win for our guys and our program,” Waldorf coach Joe Tautges said.

Bellevue handed Waldorf a 16-0 loss in the opener as three Bruins pitchers combined for a no-hitter. The Bruins claimed three wins in the four-game series, rolling to a 12-1 victory in the final matchup.

Trevor Jones powered Bellevue in Game 1, going 4-for-5 with a two-run home run and five RBIs. Joe Mancuso drove in two runs while adding a double in a 3-for-3 performance. Joe Moran finished 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs. Derik Bontempo knocked in three runs with a pair of singles, and John King collected two doubles to help Bellevue rack up 17 hits.

Todd Nicks (8-1) earned the win. He notched eight strikeouts and issued the Bruins’ only walk in five innings.

John Timmins and Connor Chick helped close out the no-hitter, which saw the Warriors put one runner on base. Timmins recorded two strikeouts in a one-inning relief appearance, and Chick struck out three batters in the seventh inning.

Sophomore Adam Kovash (3-4) was saddled with the loss. He walked three batters and surrendered 15 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits in three innings.

Waldorf freshman Garrett Gillen pitched the final three innings. He fanned three batters and yielded one run on four hits.

Moran legged out a two-run triple in the bottom of the first inning, and Bontempo drove in a run on a groundout to give Bellevue a quick 3-0 lead.

Jones went deep with a two-run homer in the second.

The Bruins put together a seven-run third behind six hits and two errors. Mancuso belted an RBI single, Matt Evans and Colton Nash scored following a throwing error while Jones and Bontempo ripped two-run singles to boost Bellevue to a 12-0 advantage.

The Bruins tallied four more runs in the fourth. Austin Wallace lined an RBI double to right field, Mancuso added a run-scoring double, Jones singled in a run and Moran connected for an RBI sacrifice fly.

After being silenced at the plate, the Warriors pounded out 13 hits to bring down Bellevue in Game 2.

“It was a good offensive game for us,” Tautges said. “We kind of needed to bust out of the slump that we were in from the first game.”

Junior Bruce Mau finished 2-for-5 in the win, turning in a triple and a double.

“Bruce had a good game,” Tautges said.

Waldorf junior Kellan Mick went 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Freshman Mitchell Keeran and junior Ryan Villarreal cracked run-scoring singles while adding two hits apiece. Junior Michael Keeran also provided two hits. The Warriors received an RBI single from junior Tony Manna while sophomore Eric Mallo and Gillen contributed singles.

Bontempo paced the Bruins with two doubles, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Moran went 3-for-4 and drove in a run as he finished with a triple and double. Jones closed out the game with a pair of singles.

Michael Keeran (4-3) scored the win. He struck out two batters, walked one and allowed six runs as he scattered 10 hits in six and one-third innings.

Junior Trevor Bauer nailed down the final two-thirds of the seventh inning, giving up just one hit and slamming the door to record his third save of the season.

Bellevue’s Braulio Torres-Perez (7-1) was hit with the loss. Torres-Perez, who’s been named the NSAA Pitcher of the Week three times this season, was knocked out after three innings. He exited with three strikeouts and two walks after allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits.

Zach Larrison recorded a strikeout and gave up one run on three hits in one inning of relief. Tony Monroy finished with three strikeouts and two walks while yielding a hit in two innings. Leland Tilley struck out a batter and allowed a hit in the final inning.

Sophomore Jacob Tedesco drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the first inning and Mitchell Keeran scored on a throwing error. An RBI double from Kellan Mick put the Warriors in front 3-0.

Bontempo doubled in Bellevue’s first run in the bottom of the first.

Junior Dean Mick pushed in a run during the third after being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Waldorf built a 7-1 lead in the fourth. Mitchell Keeran, Villarreal and Manna delivered RBI singles in the inning.

“It was a well-played and clean game on both sides,” Tautges said. “We got off to a big lead and were lucky to hang on.”

Jones turned in an RBI sac fly in the fifth, and Bontempo contributed an RBI single in the sixth to pull the Bruins within four runs.

Moran singled in a run during the seventh, Bontempo delivered an RBI double and Nash knocked in a run on a groundout before Bellevue’s rally was halted.

The win marked Waldorf’s second victory over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons. Last season, the Warriors won 5-3 against No. 8 Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

“It’s positive,” Tautges said. “It’s little strides at a time, which is what we’re looking for as coaches. It’s really something special for these guys, especially for the young guys to be in a situation like that against the No. 2 team in the nation.”

Bellevue coach Duane Monlux, who’s guided the Bruins to five consecutive NAIA national tournament appearances, commended Waldorf’s coaching staff for the way the Warriors fended off a late threat against a top-notch program.

“Their coach was very impressed with how our guys handled the situation in the last inning,” Tautges said. “He was really impressed with the way we swung our bats, so that was a very nice compliment from very good coach and a very good team.”

Waldorf closed out Game 3 with six hits, receiving singles from senior Ryan McCabe, Michael Keeran, Kellan Mick, Mau, Tedesco and Gillen.

Mancuso led the charge for Bellevue, going 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and triple. Connor Garrison went 3-for-3 with two RBIs while Bontempo cranked out three hits, including a double. Nash also went deep with a three-run blast in a 2-for-3 performance. King added two hits for the Bruins, who pounded out 16 hits.

The third game of the day tested the Warriors, who were at a disadvantage with a 20-man roster. Rain in Sunday’s forecast forced the two teams to square off in a tripleheader.

“They were a little bit more fresh,” Tautges said. “They subbed guys in during the first game and played a couple different guys in the last game. That’s the way it goes.”

Aaron Bain (4-0) picked up the win. He punched out seven batters, walked three and scattered four hits in seven innings.

Bellevue’s Blake Phelps and Kevin Rodriguez each provided an inning of relief. Phelps tallied a strikeout, a walk and yielded one run on one hit. Rodriguez struck out three batters and gave up a hit.

Mau (1-6) was tagged with the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits in one inning.

Manna surrendered six runs (three earned) on 10 hits in four innings of work. Freshman Michael Miller pitched the seventh for the Warriors.

The Bruins took control with a nine-run second inning. Mancuso went yard with a three-run shot. Garrison, Jones and Ross Feeley continued the offensive onslaught with RBI singles. Nash capped the inning with a three-run homer.

Feeley drove in his second run of the game with a third-inning sacrifice fly.

An RBI sacrifice fly from Evans and RBI single from Garrison gave Bellevue a 12-run advantage through four innings.

Tedesco scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to account for Waldorf’s lone run.

The Warriors face Grand View University (22-14) in Wednesday’s 3 p.m. nonconference doubleheader at Des Moines. Grand View is receiving votes in the NAIA poll.

Waldorf currently holds third place in the NSAA standings and is looking to lock up the No. 3 seed in the NSAA Tournament, scheduled for May 6-10 at Valley City, North Dakota and Jamestown, North Dakota. The Warriors wrap up the conference season next weekend against Dakota State University (16-22, 9-8) at Madison, South Dakota with doubleheaders set for 1 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.

“Next weekend will be a big seeding factor,” Tautges said. “Hopefully, we can win another series. That’d be a great way to go into the conference tournament. Dakota State has been playing well, and we’ll have to be ready to play, that’s for sure.”