Bennett Oliver set a new MIAA single-season home run record with his 24th of the season and three UCM pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout as the ninth-ranked Mules beat Minnesota State 3-0 on Saturday night at Joe Faber Field. With the win, the Mules advance to the Central Region Championship Game on Monday at 11 a.m.
The Mules (41-13) struck first in the bottom of the third inning. Jackson Schnurbusch led off with a single, stole second, went to third on Matt Elliott’s infield single and scored on Dylan Farrell’s infield single to shortstop. Jake Alexander singled home Farrell later in the inning to give the Mules a 2-0 lead.
The only other run came in the bottom of the sixth when Oliver led off with a towering home run to right. It was his 24th of the season, setting a new MIAA single-season mark and breaking the old record of 23 set by Eric Shortell of Emporia State in 2008 and matched by Dean Long of ESU last year.
The three runs was more than enough for the Mule pitching staff on this night. Carlos D’Armas (5-2) tossed 6.1 solid innings to earn the win. He allowed just three hits, while striking out four and walking one.
He exited in the seventh with one out and a runner at first. Tayler Ross entered the game and got a groundout and a strike out to end the Maverick (36-17) threat. Ross tossed 1.2 innings of perfect relief with two strikeouts. He turned it over to Grant Gavin in the ninth. He struck out the side on 14 pitches to give the Mules the win and punch their ticket to Monday’s regional title tilt.
The save was Gavin’s 12th of the year, tying him for second most in a single-season in UCM history. His 15 career saves are tied for fourth most all-time.
Mitchell Bauer (6-4) took the loss for Minnesota State after allowing three runs on 10 hits over 5.1 innings.
The Mules out-hit the Mavericks 12-3 in the game and every Mule had at least one hit with Cole Distler going 3-for-4 and Elliott going 2-for-3 with a walk.
The Mules will face Arkansas-Monticello in Monday’s title game.