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Fitz leads Jimmies past Valley City State

Dru Fitz's gritty performance on the mound Wednesday night allowed University of Jamestown to claw its way back to victory at Jack Brown Stadium. Fitz tossed 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball in relief, helping the Jimmies evaporate a 6-1 defic...

University of Jamestown's dugout catches the action Wednesday night against Valley City State at Jack Brown Stadium. John M. Steiner / The Sun
University of Jamestown's dugout catches the action Wednesday night against Valley City State at Jack Brown Stadium. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Dru Fitz's gritty performance on the mound Wednesday night allowed University of Jamestown to claw its way back to victory at Jack Brown Stadium.

Fitz tossed 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball in relief, helping the Jimmies evaporate a 6-1 deficit against rival Valley City State University and walk off with a 7-6 victory in the bottom of the ninth. The Jimimes improved to 1-1 on the fall following Tuesday's 13-8 loss at Mayville State. Jamestown hosts Mayville State this Monday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.

"Whenever I'm on the mound I just try to pound the zone," said Fitz, a junior right-hander from Gresham, Ore. "Let them hit it or swing right through it. I don't try and pick my spots too much, I just try to challenge them."

Fitz helped UJ put zeros on the board from the fourth inning to one out in the eighth. He allowed just four hits and struck out eight Valley City State batters after Jimmie starter Kensaku Akiya allowed six runs, four of them earned, through the first three frames.

"We didn't get off to a very good start, but I'm really proud of how Dru threw the baseball," said UJ coach Tom Hager. "We know that he has a chance to be very good and today he showed a glimpse of that. He ate up a bunch of innings for us."

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Kaleb Binstock earned the win tossing the final 1 2/3. The Jimmies' Tanner Roundy scored the game-winning run from second base with no outs in the ninth. UJ's Zach Zurbrugg laid down a bunt with runners on first and second and Valley City State third baseman Marcus Niemann tossed an errant throw to first base on the play, allowing Zurbrugg to reach and Roundy to score.

After spotting the Vikings six runs through three innings, Jamestown scored twice in the fourth and posted single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh to tie the contest. Senior center fielder Kody Lane delivered the biggest blow for the Vikings with a three-run homer to right in the third, which was followed by a two-run shot from Jimmie second baseman Jared Bentley in the fourth to begin the comeback. Binstock and Lincoln Trujillo contributed solo blasts for the Jimmies in the sixth and seventh, respectively.

The Jimmies missed an opportunity to break the game open in the eighth, loading the bases with just one out. Valley City State pitcher Grant Bangen, however, was able to get Binstock to fly out to third, and Jacob Miller-the Vikings' third pitcher of the inning-also got Matt Meraz to pop out to third to end the threat.

The eighth inning started for the Jimmies with runners at the corners and no outs, after Cameron Martin hit a pinch-hit double at the bottom of the order to lead off the frame and Jaden Yackley followed with a single. But the Vikings' Shaun Kourajian was able to set down Grant Okawa on strikes before hitting Drake Pilat with a pitch to load the bases and handing the ball over to Bangen.

"First and third in the eighth inning, I thought we had some chances and we just couldn't capitalize," Hager said. "We've got some new guys out there that are learning and sometimes trying to do too much. We've just got to stay simple, because when we stay simple at the plate we're awfully good."

After Fitz allowed back-to-back singles with one out in the top of the eighth, Binstock entered and recorded the final five outs, four via strikeout, to notch the win. Binstock finished with five strikeouts by fanning Aiden Brook, who reached safely on a wild pitch with two outs in the ninth.

Roundy led off the final half inning for the Jimmies with a single, reaching second when Bentley was awarded first base on a bean ball thrown by Miller. Miller shouldered the loss for the Vikings.

"When you can put up zeros, then I think your team has a chance to keep putting up a run here and a run there, and we did that," Hager said. "We chipped away."

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Jamestown will be looking to turn the tables on Mayville State this coming Monday.

"This was a good win," Hager said. "Hopefully we can get better the rest of the week and get ready for (Mayville State). They're a good baseball team."

Jamestown 7, Valley City State 6

VC 303 000 000 -- 6 10 2

UJ 100 211 101 -- 7 15 1

Nicholas Vargas, Phillip Almanza (3), Jesse Johnson (6), Shaun Kourajian (8), Grant Bangen (8), Jacob Miller (8) and Aide Brook. Kensaku Akiya, Dru Fitz (4), Kaleb Binstock (8) and Zach Zurbrugg. W--Binstock. L--Miller.

Highlights: UJ, Fitz 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 8 SO; Binstock 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 5 SO, 1-4, HR, RBI; Jared Bentley 3-4, HR, 2 RBI; Lincoln Trujillo 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Jade Yackley 3-5, 2B; Tanner Roundy 2-4. VC, Nate Soulis 1-5, RBI; Brady Smith 2-4, 2B; Kody Lane 2-4, HR, 3 RBI.

Records: Jamestown 1-1. Valley City State 0-1.

Related Topics: NAIA
Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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