By Alex Neupert, Sports Editor
The University of Missouri—St. Louis baseball team delivered in a big way on March 12, finishing off the week in sunny Florida with five wins and no losses. They defeated Minnesota-Crookston off the strength of their bats, outscoring the Golden Eagles 20-8 off of 17 hits to bring their season record to 10-1. Additionally, the win gave head coach Jim Brady the 800th of his career, a mark that places him in the top 15 winningest coaches for Division II baseball.
UMSL started off the 2016 Florida Spring Trip by first edging out Mansfield 5-3 on March 8. The game was tied after the fifth inning, but Mansfield took the lead in the top of the seventh before the Tritons responded with three runs of their own. Three up and three down for Triton closer Austin Simokaitis, senior, accounting, sealed the deal to get the week off to a good start.
The Tritons next faced Cedarville and quickly showed them their power with five runs in the first inning. This was only the start of their offensive barrage, however, as ultimately the team would combine for 29 hits and 35 runs, one run shy of tying the school record for runs in a game. Eight Tritons had multiple hits, and Jose Ortiz, senior, undeclared, and Justin Busekrus, senior, criminal justice, each knocked in six baserunners as part of the dismantling of Cedarville’s pitching. It took seven of their pitchers to get through the traumatic episode.
UMSL regrouped for another close matchup on March 10 against Upper Iowa University. The game went back and forth and was tied until Upper Iowa jumped ahead with two runs in the seventh inning for a 4-2 lead. The Tritons were not done just yet, as the offense capitalized on poor fielding from their opponents in the eighth and ninth to plate three runs. Busekrus got the key hit in the eighth to push across the first run to start the rally.
The Tritons again faced Cedarville in a very different rematch. Whereas UMSL consistently made contact in their first game, opposing starter Josh Kneeland struck out four Triton batters in the first two frames. Tom DeCero, freshman, undecided, managed to get a ball by the Cedarville infielders for UMSL’s first hit of the evening before Kneeland induced a double play. Meanwhile, Cedarville navigated around UMSL’s starter, Jake Renfrow, junior, business administration, tagging him for three runs in his six innings of work. The Tritons offense finally got the wheels turning with five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead. Simokaitis closed it out once more for his sixth save of the season.
In the final game of the five-game series, UMSL quickly jumped ahead of Minnesota-Crookston with two or more runs in each of the first five innings. Dominic Orlando, senior, communications, led the Triton offense with four runs-batted-in, and four UMSL pitchers worked together to prevent the Golden Eagles from mounting a real comeback.
After the Florida Spring Trip sweep, the Tritons next head to a regional crossover tournament in Carmel, Indiana, on March 19.