ST. PAUL, Minn. — In its two previous conference doubleheaders, the Carleton College baseball team let a final-inning lead slip away in game one before getting a stellar pitching performance in game two to earn a split. The script played out the exact same way on Tuesday, as the Knights yielded two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and dropped game one to host Hamline University by a 5-4 tally. Behind a complete-game effort by Nolan Baker (Jr./Appleton, Wis./Appleton North), Carleton bounced back and won the nightcap, 3-1.
The Knights improve to 18-10 overall (8-6 MIAC), their third-highest win total in team history, which dates back to 1882. The eight conference victories are tied for the sixth-highest figure in program annals.
Things started out well for Carleton as the Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the opening frame. They collected five hits in the inning, including RBI singles from Hayden Tsutsui (So./Northridge, Calif./Chatsworth) and Cody Bohlman (So./Irvine, Calif./University High School).
The advantage was trimmed almost immediately as Hamline centerfielder Evan Cordell started the bottom of the inning by connecting for his second home run of the season. The Pipers (11-12, 5-8 MIAC) got another tally later in the frame and tied the contest with a single run in the second.
The Knights moved back in front in the fifth inning. Tsutsui opened the stanza with a single and advanced to second on Ray Yong’s (Sr./Elmhurst, Ill./York) base hit. Tsutsui then swiped third and came home on the third of Kevin Johnson’s (Sr./St. Anthony, Minn./DeLaSalle) four hits in the contest.
The Carleton bullpen held the lead until the bottom of the seventh when the Pipers rallied on a base on balls followed by a double and consecutive RBI singles for the walk-off 5-4 victory.
Just as Johnson did for the Knights on Saturday against Saint John’s, Baker (4-1) came riding in to rescue Carleton with a complete-game effort in the day’s second contest. The junior righthander pitched the full 9.0 innings for the first time in his career, matching his career-best with seven strikeouts without a walk while scattering six hits en route to the 3-1 win.
Baker and Hamline starter Matt Connell (1-3) locked up in a fierce pitchers duel. Connell limited the Knights to only two singles over the first five innings, but a pair of walks hurt him in the sixth.
Jeff Dsida (Sr./Winnetka, Ill./New Trier) drew a base on balls to start the inning and advanced to second on a groundout. Tsutsui also saw four pitches out of the zone, and Yong followed with a RBI single.
The Knights tacked on two more tallies in the eighth when David Stillerman (Sr./Evanston, Ill./Evanston) and Tsutsui singled with one out. Both would come around to score on Johnson’s clutch two-out base knock, making the score 3-0 in Carleton’s favor.
Baker yielded only three singles over his first eight innings but things got interesting in the ninth. A one-out triple was followed by a RBI groundout. Then a single and double put the tying runs in scoring position with two down.
Just as he did with Johnson on Saturday, Carleton head coach Aaron Rushing gave his veteran hurler an opportunity to close things out, and Baker did just that, inducing a game-ending grounder.
The Knights travel to University of Wisconsin-La Cross for a 7 p.m. non-conference affair on Wednesday, April 23. Carleton then returns home to host national No. 10 University of St. Thomas on Saturday, April 26 at 1 p.m.