University of Jamestown's Brice Foster walked the Jimmies off winners 6-5 in the 10th inning Thursday at Jack Brown Stadium, but what about Grant Okawa's game-tying solo home run with two outs in the bottom half of the seventh?
The Jimmies' senior shortstop took an 0-2 fastball on the outer half of the plate the opposite way, clearing the ivy in right field and tying visiting Briar Cliff University at 5-5 with Jamestown down to its final strike in the first game of a Great Plains Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader.
Foster's bases-loaded, game-winning hit three frames later doesn't happen without one of UJ's best bats getting to Briar Cliff reliever Austin Carter for the game's only home run.
The Chargers would bounce back in the nightcap, defeating the Jimmies 6-3.
"I'm just trying to keep us in the game and trying to hit anything over the plate with an 0-2 count there," said Okawa, who's batting a team-leading .373 and cleared the fence for the third time this season. "Just catched my barrel in a good spot there and lucky enough it went over that short porch down there."
Carter was attempting to nail down the save for Briar Cliff ace Jacob Wesselmann (6 IP, 7 SO), but instead would shoulder the loss after Jamestown snuck out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
UJ reliever Cameron Jenkins hit the first batter he faced in the ninth to load the sacks with two outs, but he was able to get Brandon Hohenstein to ground out to second to end the threat and would face only four batters in the 10th.
The Jimmies' Tayler Cullen led off UJ's half of the 10th with a double and was promptly shuffled to third on an Okawa sacrifice bunt. Okawa batted 3-for-4 with a homer, double, and two RBIs in game 1.
The Chargers then opted to load the bases by issuing free passes to UJ sluggers Luke Shekeryk and Lincoln Trujillo before bringing in reliever Tyler Kjose to face Foster, who's currently batting a robust .349 for the orange and black.
Kjose threw three pitches before Foster was mobbed by his Jimmie teammates near second base after smoking the game-winning hit into right-center. The senior transfer from Menlo College in California has been a boon for the Jimmies (19-11, 6-4 GPAC) at the plate and defensively at second base.
"I got recruited as a pitcher to come over here -- a potential two-way -- and then showed my stuff and I was able to get out there," Foster said.
Due to COVID-19, Menlo College hasn't played a baseball game since March 7, 2020. Foster had connections with the Jimmies through current players Shekeryk, Chase Hacker, Matt Meraz, and others, and UJ coach Tom Hager brought in the native of Lynnwood, Washington, over the last semester break.
"You gotta get it started if you're going to win a ball game," Hager said. "We got it started and then Foster came up with a big hit."
Okawa's miracle blast in the seventh, however, made it all possible. The Mississauga, Ontario product is riding an eight-game hitting streak following Thursday's doubleheader.
"That's a professional piece of hitting," Hager said of his shortstop's clutch shot. "Grant did a tremendous job ... and then we were able to shut them down and come back and get a quality performance out of the pen from Jenkins."
UJ starting pitcher Dru Fitz -- the reigning GPAC pitcher of the week -- tossed 94 pitches and wouldn't factor into the decision after leaving in the sixth and the score tied at 4-4 to begin the seventh. BC's Jake Federico gave the visitor's a brief 5-4 lead in the seventh, stroking an RBI single into the grass off UJ's Aaron Pugh.
Fitz piled up 38 early pitches as the Chargers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, but UJ's ace bounced back to retire 10 straight batters and struck out the side in order in the third. Jamestown took over the lead at 3-2 in the bottom of the second on a misplayed grounder hit up the middle by Cullen that eventually scored two with the bases loaded, and Okawa followed with an RBI single.
Along with Okawa and Foster (2-for-5), Shekeryk (2-for-4) also had a pair of UJ's nine hits in the opener. Jenkins improved to 3-2, allowing just one hit in a 1 1/3 innings and striking out two in the 10th.
"Like coach Hager was saying at the end of the second game, no matter what the score is we're always in the game," Okawa said. "Just trying to rally the guys together, make plays in the infield, and just play our game."
Snakebitten following game 1, Briar Cliff junior catcher Jake Allen backed up an admirable start turned in by senior righthander Dalen Blair in the Chargers' bounceback 6-3 victory.
Allen's three-run homer off UJ starter Kensaku Akiya in the fifth broke a 2-2 tie, and he later added an insurance run in the top of the seventh with a solo shot off UJ reliever Noah Soltero.
"I just told them, that's a really gutsy win," said Briar Cliff coach Corby McGlauflin. "It's an emotional first game, long ways from home. It'd been really easy to fold up and let a good team beat you, but we battled and I'm really proud of the way we responded in that second game."
Allen bumped his average to .308 on the season, batting 5-for-8 with five runs driven in over the two games at Jack Brown. Blair improved to 4-1 in seven starts, striking out seven for the now 22-7 Chargers.
McGlauflin, the former baseball coach and Bismarck State College, took over as head man for the Chargers in 2019-20. Blair has over 100 career strikeouts in four seasons for BC.
"(Blair's) had a great career at Briar Cliff," McGlauflin said. "He's been a little all over the place this year, but he really battled for us and turned in a good start when we needed it."
Jamestown and Akiya fell behind 2-0 in the second inning and scored single runs offensively in the second, fourth and fifth. The Jimmies stranded six runners all told, which included a man standing on third in the fourth, fifth and seventh frames.
"We left too many guys in scoring position, that's the bottom line," Hager said. "We left some balls over the plate on the mound and we left way too many guys in scoring position.
"It was a frustrating second game, and, certainly, you've got to give (Briar Cliff) credit for responding after a tough loss, but on our end, we're a better hitting team than that and we'll come back and show that."
Akiya (2-3) gave up five earned runs on 10 hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings pitched. The Jimmies' Dylan Dudley (1-for-3) homered with the bases empty in the second, while Meraz (1-for-1) and Cullen (1-for-4) turned in RBI doubles for the home team.
"We were close in this last game, and we came and tied it up and ended up getting it done in the first game," Foster said. "I think what we need to do is just keep staying in games.
"We've been scoring more runs than we normally do. So we need to keep that up, keep our pitching good, and then we'll be right there."
The Jimmies travel to Dordt (9-17, 2-6 GPAC) on Saturday for a pair of conference games before hosting Concordia (Minnesota) in a single nine-inning contest on Monday beginning at 1 p.m.
Okawa is confident that more clutch hits from the Jimmies, like his game 1 homer, are yet to come.
"Just try to have team at-bats and those hits will come," Okawa said. "We have good enough hitters through our one through nine that anyone can put one over and anyone can lay a bunt down. We just gotta stay within ourselves, know our mechanics, and just adjust from pitch to pitch.
"If we can do that, we'll be a pretty good team for the rest of the season."
University of Jamestown 6, Briar Cliff University 5 (10 in.)
BC 020 002 100 0 -- 5 9 2
UJ 030 010 100 1 -- 6 9 0
Jacob Wesselmann, Austin Carter (7), Tyler Kjos (10) and Jake Allen. Dru Fitz, Andy Reed (6), Aaron Pugh (7), Austin Pesicka (8), Trey Evans (9), Cameron Jenkins (9) and Dirk Eymundson. W-Jenkins. L-Carter.
Highlights: UJ, Fitz 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 94 NP; Reed 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 SO; Pugh 2/3 IP, 1 H, 2 SO; Jenkins 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO; Grant Okawa 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Luke Shekeryk 2-4, BB; Brice Foster 2-5, RBI, R; Kendall Yackley 1-2, BB, R; Tayler Cullen 1-5, 2B, R, RBI.
BC, Wesselmann 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, 111 NP; Carter 3 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO; Kjose 0 IP, 1 H, 3 NP. Jared Sitzmann 2-5, 2B, Jake Allen 2-4, RBI
Records: University of Jamestown 19-10, 6-3 GPAC. Briar Cliff 21-7, 5-4.
Briar Cliff University 6, University of Jamestown 3
BC 020 030 1 -- 6 11 1
UJ 010 110 0 -- 3 8 0
Dalen Blair, Ryan Pearson (7) and Jake Allen. Kensaku Akiya, Cameron Multer (5), Noah Soltero (6) and Dirk Eymundson. W-Blair. L-Akiya.
Highlight: UJ, Akiya 4 1/3 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO; 86 NP; Multer 1 1/3 IP, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 SO; Soltero 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB; Eymundson 2-3, 2 2B; Tayler Cullen 1-4, 2B, RBI; Matt Meraz 1-1, 2B, RBI; Dylan Dudley 1-3, HR, RBI;
BC, Blair 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO; Pearson 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO; Allen 3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI; Jared Sitzmann 2-4, 2B; Cyler Melvin 2-3, 2B, BB, RBI.
Records: Briar Cliff 22-7, 6-4 GPAC. Jamestown 19-11, 6-4 GPAC.