Brinkley’s three hits, five RBIs and three runs scored powered the Bears into Saturday’s 3:35 p.m. semifinal game with Nebraska, while helping SMS improve to 36-23 on the season. Coastal Carolina (45-17) fell into Saturday’s elimination game with Eastern Michigan, scheduled for 11:05 a.m.
Scott Nasby added a 3-for-4 performance at the plate for the Bears and scored three runs to provide more offensive punch for SMS starter Chad Mulholland, who improved to 10-3 with the victory. Mulholland allowed three earned runs on six hits in 5.1 innings, before turning the game over to the SMS bullpen, which did not allow a hit in the final 3.2 innings.
Bob Zimmerman came on in the sixth and pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief before leaving runners at first and second with nobody out in the top of the eighth, and SMS holding a 6-3 advantage. Bears closer Shaun Marcum entered the game with the tying run at the plate and retired all six batters he faced to pick up his 12th save of the season.
Coastal Carolina starter Justin Sturge dropped to 10-3 with the loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits in 4.1 innings.
The Chanticleers actually staked Sturge to an early 2-0 lead on Adam Pernasilici’s second home run of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the second inning.
SMS responded with two runs of its own in the top half of the third. Rick Wilson led off the inning with a sharp liner off Sturge’s left knee that ricocheted into foul territory near third base. Sturge fell hard to the ground in front of the mound, but was able to continue. He retired Wilson on a fielder’s choice ground out by Adam Pummill to third base, before Pummill was thrown out at second trying to steal. With two outs, Nasby singled to set up Brinkley’s first two-run homer of the game to tie the score.
After the setting the Bears down quietly in the fourth inning, Sturge benefited from Mike Costanzo’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth, as Coastal Carolina took a 3-2 lead.
The rest of the way, it was all SMS. A one-out walk to Pummill and a single by Nasby chased Sturge in the top of the fifth. Brian Waack came on in relief and was greeted by Brinkley’s RBI single to tie the game at three. Waack then walked SMS’s Brooks Colvin and Greg Mathis to score Nasby with the go-ahead run. Chad Wheeler followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to give SMS a 5-3 lead before Tony Piazza stretched the SMS lead to 6-3 with an RBI single.
While the SMS pitchers kept the Chanticleers at bay, Brinkley provided the Bears with a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning with his seventh homer of the season, his second two-run shot of the game.
*- Dant'e Brinkley's two-homer game was his second of the
season, as he also hit two homers against Illinois State on May
*- Shaun Marcum's 12 saves this season
and 17 career saves extend his own school records.
*- Chad Mulholland's 5.1 innings
of work was his shortest start of the season since going 5.1 innings
against Texas Arlington on Feb. 15
11:05 a.m. - Game 3 - Eastern Michigan
(home) vs. Coastal Carolina
3:35 p.m. - Game 4 - Southwest Missouri
State (home) vs. Nebraska
8:05 p.m. - Game 5 - Winner of Game
3 vs. Loser of Game 4