St. John's returns to NCAA playoffs

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COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Saint John's University won its second consecutive MIAC Playoff championship and third in the last five seasons with an 11-4 victory over Saint Mary's on Saturday, May 14, at Becker Park in Collegeville.

The Johnnies (28-12, 13-7 MIAC) will make their fifth appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament May 18-21 at a location to be announced. The tournament field is expected to be released late (11 p.m. CDT) Sunday night.

Unlike the two previous MIAC postseason games, in which SJU used a ninth-inning home run to tally the decisive run/s, the Johnnies cracked 13 hits and took advantage of five SMU errors en route to the victory. SJU's first five runs scored were unearned (six of the 11 total).

Senior catcher Gabe MacDonald (Minneapolis, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret's) drove in three runs and clubbed his fifth home run of the season, 10th of his career, while freshman second baseman Cole Weaver (Carlsbad, Calif./Santa Fe Christian) finished a double short of the cycle. Weaver's solo shot in the sixth inning, his second of the season, gave SJU a three-run lead (7-4) a half inning after the Cardinals cut into the Johnnies' 6-2 lead with a pinch-hit, two-run homer from Jake Barry.

Saint Mary's (27-15-1, 13-7 MIAC) jumped on the scoreboard first with a two-run homer off the bat of Ben Buerkle in the top of the first inning.

SJU responded, however, with three runs in the bottom half of the first and added two more in the third. Weaver tripled with two outs in the fourth inning and scored on an RBI single from junior third baseman Derek Schiebel (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview). Schiebel went 3-for-4 on the day and now has 16 hits and seven RBI in eight career MIAC Tournament games.

MacDonald's two-run blast made it 9-4 in the seventh inning and SJU tacked on two more runs in the eighth. Senior outfielder Dan Keller (Vadnais Heights, Minn./White Bear Lake) drove an RBI double into the right-field corner and MacDonald followed with a sacrifice fly.

Sophomore Ben Etzell (Greenbank, Wash./Coupeville) improved to 3-1 with the win, allowing four runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings. Freshman Jake Dickmeyer (Woodbury, Minn.) allowed one hit and struck out three in 3.2 innings of scoreless relief to earn his first collegiate save.

Notes: The Johnnies have now won each of their last seven MIAC Tournament games…SJU held the Cardinals to six runs and a .265 batting average (18-for-68) in the two postseason meetings in Collegeville…SMU batted .372 (29-for-78) and scored 26 runs in its other two games…SJU used only five pitchers to cover the 27 innings in the tournament, combining for a 3.67 ERA, .272 opponent batting average and 18 strikeouts (to five walks)...Weaver led SJU with six hits in the tournament (6-for-14), while MacDonald recorded a team-high five RBI.