Kurich nets 400th coaching win

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SAUGET, Ill. - Webster University Baseball collected back-to-back walk-off wins here Friday at GCS Credit Union Ballpark to sweep both ends of doubleheader against Buena Vista University and give Webster head coach Bill Kurich his 400th career coaching win.

Kurich, who is in his 13th season at helm of the Gorloks, is now 400-157 as Webster's coach and is currently the seventh winningest active NCAA Division III baseball in terms of winning percentage at .718.

In the opener, sophomore third baseman Ben Swords (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) drilled a 3-run homer over the wall in right center in bottom of the 10th inning to post a 4-1 win over the Beavers, before using a two-out single from junior centerfielder Aron Hopp (Lincoln, Ill./Lincoln College) in the bottom of the ninth plated freshman pinch runner Milton Green (St. Louis, Mo./Crossroads Prep) with the game winning run in the Gorloks 3-2 win in the nightcap.

With the two wins, Webster improves to 4-1 on the season, while Buena Vista, who was playing its two games of the season, opens the year 0-2.

In the opener, Swords' walk-off homer made a winner out of senior Adrian Santiago (Chicago, Ill./Oakton College), who relieved junior Matt Mulhearn (Chicago Heights, Ill./Marian Catholic) with one out in the seventh and would pitch a scoreless 3.2 innings and recorded four strikeouts to improve to 1-1 on the season. Mulhearn, who threw 100 pitches in the game, allowed five hits and one run, which was unearned, while striking out seven and walking one in earning a no-decision.

Swords' homer came after Hopp led off the inning with a single, moved to second on bunt by junior leftfielder Adam Lovell (Lafayette, Ind./Saint Joseph's) and reached third on a wild pitch by Bryce Rheault and then senior rightfielder Nate Tholl (Tinley Park, Ill./John A. Logan CC) was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base.

BVU opened the scoring in the first game as they plated an unearned run in the third inning thanks to a hit, a walk and two errors, including an error on a failed pickoff attempt at second by Mulhearn that allowed Ryley McGregor to score from third. McGregor had led off the inning with a single up the middle and moved to third when Bryce Rheault reached on a throwing error by Swords at third.

Webster, though, would tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on a lead-off solo home run from senior designated hitter Jacob Budrovich (St. Louis, Mo./Lutheran South) off of BVU starting pitcher Egan Bonde. That would be the only run Bonde would allow in his five innings as he limited the Gorloks to just four hits in his outing.

The Gorloks has a scoring opportunity in the eighth as after the first two hitters struck out, Tholl drew a walk and then stole second, before Swords then would earn an intentional walk to put runners on first and second. Gage Smart, though, would get out the jam as he forced junior All-American first baseman Kyler Kent (Pottsboro, Texas/Pottsboro) to line out to right.

In the top of the 10th, Santiago would strike out two of the three Beaver hitters he faced, to set up Swords' heorics in the bottom of the 10th.

Rheault (0-1) took the loss in the opener for the Beavers as he pitched 1.1 innings and allowed three hits and three runs. Smart pitched three hitless innings as he walked two and fanned five.

Webster's offense collected seven hits in the opener, including the first two hits of Hopp's collegiate career. Buena Vista finished with five hits in the loss.

Meanwhle, in the nightcap, Hopp's game winning single made a winner of out freshman Brendan May (St. Louis, Mo./Vianney), who relieved sophomore Sean Beaver (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch), who pitched 3.2 innings and allowed just one hit, while walking one and fanning a career high nine hitters. Beaver come on in relief of junior Dakota Borman (Freeport, Ill./Highland CC), who made his first career start and tossed the first 4.1 innings and allowed five hits and two runs, while striking out six and walking none.

Hopp's single came after redshirt junior designed hitter A.J. Smith (DuQoin, Ill./DuQuoin) was hit by a pitch leading off the ninth. Smith moved to second on a bunt by sophomore shortstop Matt Staker (El Cajon, Calif./Saint Augustine). Green would then replace Smith as a pinch runner and after a groundout from senior second baseman Danny Strohm (St. Louis, Mo./Greenville University), Green would move to third on a single from junior catcher Joe Swanson (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine West), before Hopp's game winning single that went into shallow center field.

In the nightcap, Webster pitcher's recorded 15 strikeouts and walked just one. The 15 strikeouts are tied for ninth in the school's single game chart and was the strikeouts in a game by a the Gorloks since recording 16 strikeouts at Westminster (Mo.) College on April 28, 2017.

BVU would once again score first in the nightcap thanks to single, a stolen base and a ground rule double off the bat of Coleman Roberts to take a 1-0 lead.

The Beavers lead grew to 2-0 in the third inning thanks to an RBI by Roberts as this time he delivered a run scoring single to left that plated Rheault, who has reached on a one-out single to right and then stole second.

Webster would respond in the bottom of the fifth inning as after the first two Gorloks recorded outs to open the frame, Hopp drew a two-out walk, advanced to second in wild pitch by Beavers reliever Eric LaRue and after Lovell drew a walk to put runners on first and second, Tholl delivered a 2-run double to left to tie the game.

BVU would put two runners on base in the sixth thanks to a passed ball on a strikeout and walk, before Beaver would get out of the jam by forcing McGregor to fly out to left to end the inning.

Over the next two innings, Beaver would allow just one hit on a double in the seventh by Tyler Stoltze and recorded five strikeouts, including striking out the side in the eighth.

May would relieve Beaver in the ninth and after he allow a double that would later be erased on a double play, Smith was hit by a pitch from Nick Henrichs to begin the bottom of the ninth. Henrichs relieved LaRue to start the ninth after he threw 79 pitches in four innings and allowed two hits and two runs, while striking out three and walking three.

Webster finished the night with six hits, while BVU had seven hits, including two apiece from both Rheault and Roberts.

Both team stranded five runners on base and six of the combined 13 hits in the nightcap were doubles as each team had three doubles in the game.

For the doubleheader, Webster's offense recorded a total of 13 hits, but left 12 runners stranded in the two games.

The Gorloks will return to action next Friday, March 8 as they open up its Spring Break trip to Florida with a 5 pm. CT game against Wheaton (Mass.) at Chain of Lakes Stadium in Winter Haven, Fla.. The Wheaton (Mass.) game will be the first of eight games in nine days in Florida as part of the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational.