DUBUQUE Fueled by an early nine-run rally in the second game of an Iowa Conference doubleheader May 7, Wartburg College picked up a split with Loras at Petrakis Park.
Coach Joel Holst's Knights, upping their record to 23-16 overall and 16-8 in the league, bolted out to a 9-0 lead after three and a half frames en route to a 9-5 victory. The host Duhawks (19-20, 10-14 IIAC) opened the twinbill with a 4-2 victory.
Senior outfielder Ben Roemmich of West Des Moines singled in his first three at-bats, driving in two runs in the process, to spark the roll. Sophomore designated hitter Drew Yoder of Wellman, senior outfielder Patrick Grau of Elkader and freshman shortstop Ryan Powers of Wheatland each added two hits in the nightcap. Yoder also drove in two runs. Sophomore pitcher Ryan Doty of Dubuque, making the most of a start in his hometown, took the win with three shutout frames with only two hits allowed and two strikeouts.
Holst's squad nearly pulled off a road sweep, but a three-run Loras comeback in the bottom of the sixth dashed their hopes. The Orange and Black had a two-run first inning march highlighted by a Grau RBI single. The host side scored one in the second and pieced together the winning rally in the sixth with five hits.
Wartburg, closing the regular season as co-IIAC runners-up, takes the third seed into the 2011 Iowa Conference tournament Thursday through Saturday, May 12-14. The Knights face sixth-seeded Central at 1 p.m. Thursday and, with a win, would meet second-seeded Buena Vista immediately following. A loss would drop them into the tourney's first elimination game at 10 a.m. Friday against the loser of the four-five game between Luther and Simpson. Complete tournament information is available through a link on the baseball home page at www.go-knights.net, the Internet home of Wartburg athletics.
NOTES Powers takes a 16-game hitting streak into the conference tournament. Other offensive leaders for the Knights through the regular season are Grau (10 multiple-RBI games, four triples, six home runs and 31 RBIs), Krehbiel (16 multiple-hit games and 48 total hits), Powers (.351 batting average), and Yoder (14 doubles). Wartburg's team batting average continues to climb, reaching .303 after the weekend. On the mound, Watson (9-4), Doty (4-0) and freshman Marcus Walczyk of Des Moines (1-1) are all below 2.00 in earned run average. Sophomore Scott Benson of Reinbeck is second in wins (five) and his 39 strikeouts are second to Watson's 80. Senior relief pitcher Nate Rost of Faribault, Minn., tops the bullpen with five saves.