Playing in its 100th NCAA playoff game in program history, No. 6-ranked St. Thomas pushed its baseball winning streak to nine with a 4-2 comeback win over Rose-Hulman (Ind.) in Wednesday's regional tourney opener in Moline, Ill.
The Tommies (34-7), winners of 25 of their last 27, are playing the regional without injured senior Tyler Peterson, who was announced Wednesday as the 2014 conference Most Valuable Player.
They will play a 7 p.m. winners' bracket game Thursday against either Buena Vista or St. Scholastica. Region top-seed and Division III No. 1-ranked Webster (Mo.) lost 2-1 to DePauw (Ind.) in the day's first game.
Rose-Hulman (26-17) capitalized on a two-out error in the first inning and built a 2-0 lead. But UST junior Colin Wendinger kept the fifth-seed Engineers off the board thereafter as he improved to 8-0 on the season. He pitched eight innings and allowed no earned runs and just six hits. In four career postseason appearances, Wendinger is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 27 innings.
Tommy Danczyk pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his eighth save of the season. St. Thomas pitchers have allowed just five earned runs over their last 52 innings and lowered their staff ERA to 2.97.
The Tommies scored once in the fourth on Jack Hogan's RBI single. They trailed 2-1 in the last of the eighth inning and were down to their last six outs but used five singles and a sac bunt to erase the deficit. Tim Kuzniar's RBI infield hit, J.D. Dorgan's RBI ground out, and Sam Miller's two-out single drove in the tying, go-ahead and insurance runs.
Hogan went 3-for-4 and Ben Podobinski went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored to lead an 11-hit attack. Sophomore DH Waylon Bemboom, who began the eighth-inning uprising with a single and scored the tying run, had two hits in what was just his sixth career start.
St. Thomas improved to 61-39 all-time in the NCAA playoffs.
Peterson likely suffered a season-ending injury May 10 on a diving catch after a collision with a teammate in foul territory near home plate. Five days earlier, Peterson drove in five runs in one inning – all during a nine-run third inning via a homer and a double – in a 3-for-3 day. He leads conference players in batting average (.471), RBI (50), HRs (eight), slugging percentage (.794), extra-base hits (27) and fewest strikeouts (four in 152 plate appearances), and has just two errors in 310 defensive chances. In his two seasons he's played 76 games and has 97 RBI and 116 hits.