Diamond in the rough

In a tight race to the postseason, the Oakland University baseball team was able to earn a critical 8-7 win Sunday over conference foe North Dakota State.

After dropping two close decisions to the Bison Saturday by scores of 7-3 and 5-4, the Golden Grizzlies fell behind 5-2 after five innings in Game 1 of the Sunday doubleheader before rallying to take the victory.

In the top of the sixth inning, John Estes, who went 3-for-8, scored on a wild pitch and Nolan Jacoby drove in D.J. Jarrad, closing the gap to 5-4.

The Jacoby-Jarrad duo teamed up once again to tie the game at 5-5 when Jacoby scored Jarrad on a sacrifice-fly to right field.

The Bison wouldn’t give up, scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Oakland’s offense wasn’t done either, though.

After consecutive walks to Tim Ryan and Ryan Waldhart to start the innings, Eric Ogg laid down a bunt to advance both runners. Aaron Cieslak proceeded to single up the middle, clearing the bases and tying the game 7-7.

Aaron Wick came up with the final dagger of the inning, doubling to left field and scoring Cieslak to break the tie.

Oakland starter Connor Mielock gave up eight hits and five runs in seven innings of work, while striking out four. Mark Leichtman, who got the win, and Hayden Fox finished off the last two innings, allowing just two runs and three hits.

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, OU’s offense wasn’t nearly as potent, as the Grizzlies fell 5-1 and collected just three hits.

Oakland tied the game 1-1 when Brett Geschke hit a groundout that scored Todd Dunham, who had singled, stole second base, and then advanced into scoring position after a wild pitch.

NDSU secured the winning margin in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring four runs off Wick, who started the game for OU. Wick gave up seven hits, five runs, walked six batters and struck out three in five and two-thirds innings.

“We knew going in that it was going to be a tough series and NDSU is a very competitive club,” OU baseball coach John Musachio said. “We played four close games and I think all of them could’ve gone either way. We just didn’t get the break we could’ve hoped for.”

Postseason aspirations

A previous program-record eight-game win streak, which included wins over Centenary, Central Michigan, Western Illinois, and Olivet, preceded the North Dakota State series. The streak also put Oakland (17-28, 8-11) in a position to make the Summit League Tournament for the first time since 2006.

“It would obviously be a huge accomplishment for the program and it’s one of our main goals as a program every year to make the conference tournament,” Musachio said. “It’s the first time in a few years where we’ve been in a position to accomplish that this late in the year, so we’re excited for that, and it’s good experience for our players. If we go out and play the baseball we’re capable of, I think we’re going to be in good shape.”

The top four teams in the Summit League qualify for the conference tournament, but before the Grizzlies can think of postseason play, they will likely have to win a pair of four-game series versus the Mastodons of IPFW (May 14-16) and the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah (May 20-22). All of the games will be at home.

With IPFW one game behind and Southern Utah one game ahead of OU in the conference standings, the next two weekends of baseball will decide whether Musachio’s team will be playing in Tulsa, Okla., at the end of the month.

“We definitely have an understanding of how important the series (with IPFW) is. There’s no denying that,” Musachio said. “Our goal is to stay focused one game at a time, but looking at the big picture, this is a series that we really want to win and put ourselves in a position to, in the following weekend against Southern Utah, to go out and earn that fourth seed in the conference tournament.”

Oakland travels to Eastern Michigan University May 12 for its final non-conference game of the season before starting its crucial home stand.