UNO Earns First NCAA Tournament Berth

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The Omaha baseball program captured The Summit League Baseball Tournament Championship Saturday, May 25, with a win over Oral Roberts in the final game of the tournament.

Courtesy Omaha Athletics

Omaha (31-22-1) fell 6-0 in the first game against the Golden Eagles (29-26), but bounced back with a 4-0 shutout win to clinch the league title for the first time in program history.

Omaha fell behind in an early 3-0 hole on just one Oral Roberts hit in the bottom of the first. The Golden Eagles scored on an Omaha infield error with no outs for the 1-0 lead. The next two runs came on a groundout-RBI and a sacrifice fly-RBI.

Later in the bottom of the third, Oral Roberts plated a single-RBI up the middle for the fourth run. The Mavericks were able to get out of the bases-loaded jam with a groundout. Omaha saw some momentum in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded and just one out, but left all three stranded. The ORU lead increased to 6-0 after a single to right field plated a runner in the bottom of the fifth.

ORU's Trey Wolf improved to 1-3 overall with a complete game shutout. He only allowed four hits with six strikeouts on two walks. Andrew Brighton fell to 2-4 overall with five hits, five runs and four walks allowed. Only Parker Smejkal, Thomas DeBonville, Jack Lombardi and Breyden Eckhout notched hits in the game.

The Mavericks were able to get some early momentum with Eckhout's leadoff single. Both Palensky and Brett Bonar were walked, which put a two-out, bases-loaded situation for the Mavericks. All three, however, were left stranded on base.

Omaha was able to bounce back an inning later and strike first. A solo-shot homer by Rogers put the team on the board. That was followed by an RBI-triple by Keil Krumwiede that scored Max Gamm, which made it 2-0 Omaha.

After Payton Kinney retired 13 consecutive batters in the top of the sixth, the Mavericks were able to get their bats going again courtesy of Rogers. The senior from Enid, Okla., vaulted his second homer of the game with a two-shot bomb that gave Omaha a 4-0 lead.

Later on in the bottom of the seventh, Bonar rocketed a single to left center which made Palensky round third, but the junior was thrown out sliding in to the plate.

With one out and runners on first and second in the eighth, Grant Suponchick came in relief for Kinney and got the next two outs for the Mavericks on a strikeout and a groundout. Cal Hehnke entered in the final inning and was able to get the last three outs.

Kinney fanned 10 batters with just one hit and three walks allowed through 7.1 shutout innings. Rogers notched two homers for three RBI in four at-bats.

• Kinney was named the Championship MVP after not allowing an earned run over 13.1 innings of work covering two victories in the tournament - his 11th win of the season tied him for the eighth most in a single season in league history
• Rogers, who hit two home runs, had just two in 49 regular season games with his last coming on March 22
• Hehnke's save was his league-leading eighth of the season
• Oral Roberts had won its previous 19 Summit League Baseball postseason tournaments (1998-2012; 2015-18)
• This was Omaha's second appearance in the Championship (2016; 0-2)
• Joey Machado, Parker Smejkal, Breyden Eckhout, Braden Rogers, Ben Palensky, Cal Hehnke and Payton Kinney each all earned All-Tournament honors.

Omaha awaits its location and opponent for the 2019 NCAA Regional. The NCAA regional hosts will be announced Sunday, May 26, at 7:30 p.m. (CST). The selection show follows on Monday, May 27, at 11 a.m. (CST). For more information, follow