No controversy clouded a Tayler Cullen grand slam Wednesday night at Jack Brown Stadium.
One week after the junior three-hole batter for the Jimmies whacked what some thought was a game-tying home run to the right-field ivy in an eventual 7-5 loss to Mayville State, Cullen pulled a 2-1 fastball out of the hand of Valley City State starting pitcher Reed Butz over the wall in left with the bases jacked in the bottom of the third inning.
University of Jamestown defeated the Vikings 6-4 and improved to 1-1 on the fall. Jamestown welcomes Mayville State back to Jack Brown tomorrow (Sept. 24) with the game's first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.
"That one didn't come back," Cullen smiled. "The guy was a good pitcher, he was locating well. He just threw me a fastball and I got rid of it, and he tried to go in again and it just fell over the plate and I met it out front.
"Got to touch 'em all. It felt good."
Cullen was more dialed in than most. The Jimmies and the Vikings combined for 26 strikeouts, with Valley City batters being sent back to the dugout 14 times.
Jamestown senior reliever Aaron Pugh recorded the save in the ninth, setting down the Vikings' 2-3-4 batters in order. Pugh fanned David Demeter and got Gedeon Ellis to look at strike three before Drew Nixon grounded out to third.
Nixon and Ellis sent solo homers over the fence against UJ starter Kensaku Akiya in the third and fifth frames, respectively, as Jamestown led 4-2. Akiya, who shouldered the loss last Wednesday, didn't factor into the decision after tossing four stronger innings against the Vikings with six strikeouts.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, back-to-back base hits at the bottom of the UJ order by Connor Morman and Chase Hacker helped set the table of Cullen's game-changing blast. Senior shortstop Grant Okawa drew a two-out walk to bring Cullen to the plate.
"I felt like we did quite a few things right tonight," said Jimmie baseball coach Tom Hager. "Obviously, Cullen's hit was a big hit to get us going a little bit. Our bullpen was outstanding and Ken gave us a much better outing than he did the other day, so I'm really proud of my guys. That was a gut-it-out kinda win."
The Jimmies hit a speed bump in the seventh leading 4-2. UJ sophomore reliever Trey Evans produced one out in the frame before handing the ball over to senior Austin Pesicka with runners on second and third. Pesicka's second pitch to Nixon was a two-run, game-tying single.
But Pesicka (1-0) was all business thereafter, fanning four and tossing 1 2/3 clean innings before the Jimmies turned to Pugh in the ninth. UJ senior Andy Reed also pitched scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth.
Sophomore third baseman Kendall Yackley produced the go-ahead clutch knock in the bottom of the seventh, taking an 0-1 Marcus Niemann pitch the opposite way to the gap in right-center for a two-run double. Jamestown's Matt Meraz led off the frame with a double down the line in left and Chase Hacker drew a one-out walk.
"That was a great swing by (Yackley)," Hager said. "We needed that. We were a little stagnant for the middle innings of the game."
"It was just a middle-away fastball, just kinda sticking with the approach and trying to hit it the other way," Yackley said. "It was kind of an average day at the plate, and so you gotta kinda go up there with the mentality of just hit it hard, put it in play and hopefully good things will happen."
The Jimmies' six hits were enough to push their current winning streak over the Vikings to 14 games. UJ is 54-3 against Valley City State since 2007.
"A lot of guys came from a lot of places where we couldn't play all summer," said Cullen, who is from Santa Rosa, California. "We had almost zero summer ball. It's just early, I feel like pitchers were throwing well on both sides."
But Hager expects more offensively beginning tomorrow against the Comets.
"I think we need to do a better job of putting the ball in play," Hager said. "Hopefully we can respond tomorrow night by putting the ball in play a little more and continue to put pressure on the opposing team."
University of Jamestown 6, Valley City State 4
V 001 010 200 -- 4 8 0
J 004 000 20x -- 6 6 1
Reed Butz, Marcus Niemann (6), Matthew Suda (8) and Connor Aanderud. Kensaku Akiya, Andy Reed (5), Trey Evans (7), Austin Pesicka (7), Aaron Pugh (9) and Connor Mormon. W--Pesicka. L--Niemann. S--Pugh.
Highlights: VC, Drew Nixon 2-5, HR, 2 RBI; Davie Demeter 2-4, RBI; Gedeon Ellis, HR, RBI; Butz 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 9 SO; Niemann 1.2 IP, 2 H 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO; Suda 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 SO.
UJ, Tayler Cullen 1-4, HR, 4 RBI; Kendall Yackley 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Matt Meraz 1-1, 2B, R; Chase Hacker 1-1, 2 BB, 2 R; Brian Rice 1-2, 2B. Akiya 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 SO; Reed 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 SO; Evans 0.1, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 SO; Pesicka 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO; Puge 1 IP 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO.
Records: Jamestown 1-1. Valley City State 1-2.