UNO off to Best Start in Division I Era

By  | 

The Omaha baseball team remained perfect in Summit League action with a series sweep over South Dakota State at Augustana University Saturday afternoon.

Courtesy Omaha Athletics

Omaha (20-6-1, 12-0) capped off the sweep with a pair of doubleheader wins against South Dakota State (14-13, 7-5). After the Mavericks mounted a nine-run comeback last night, they continued their momentum with a 9-4 victory in game two and an 11-7 win in game three off Thomas DeBonville's late heroics with a ninth-inning grand slam.

Omaha is off to its best conference start in the Division I era (started 9-0 in 2013).
The Mavericks are now 12-0 in the league with a quartet of sweeps this season over North Dakota State, Purdue Fort Wayne, Western Illinois and South Dakota State.
This is the team's first 20-win season since 2016.
DeBonville's grand slam in game three is the second for the team this season, as he joins fellow teammate Parker Smejkal, who recorded one on March 24 against Purdue Fort Wayne.

In contrast to the series opener, Omaha was able to get off to a hot start and notch a pair of single-RBI from Brett Bonar and Ben Palensky in the top of the first. A double by Braden Rogers in the second made it 3-0 Mavericks.

The Mavericks blistered a trio of runs in the third as Palensky doubled down the right field line and Smejkal recorded his second straight homer that made it 6-0.

South Dakota State got on the board with a run on an Omaha throwing error, but the Mavericks went back up six in the next inning as Palensky touched the pentagon on a DeBonville sacrifice fly. A two-run South Dakota State home run cut Omaha's lead at 7-3, which preceded a fielder's choice RBI for the Jackrabbits that made it a three-run game in the bottom of the fifth.

Omaha did not waiver and was able to plate two more runs in the top of the seventh and ninth. DeBonville helped the Mavericks score its final two runs on a fielder's choice for an RBI in the seventh, while a single-RBI two innings later scored Bonar.

Payton Kinney improved to 6-0 on the year while Jackson Gordon recorded his third save of the season on four strikeouts through 3.0 hitless and shutout innings. South Dakota State's pitcher Ryan Froom fell to 3-2 on the year. Bonar finished with three hits, three runs and an RBI, while Palensky and Rogers both had two hits and a double. DeBonville finished with three RBI.

Omaha capped off the series in dramatic fashion. After leading 7-1 through five innings, South Dakota State tied it up at 7-all entering the top of the ninth. With the bases loaded, DeBonville launched his first-career grand slam and lifted Omaha to a four-run win.

The senior from Silverthorne Colo., finished with two hits and four RBI, while Spencer Koelewyn tied his career-high of eight strikeouts for the fourth time through 5.0 innings with one hit and one run allowed. Cal Hehnke came in relief and picked up his second win of the season (2-1), while SDSU's Cody Carlson fell to 0-3.

Omaha continued its quick start with a trio of runs in the first. Both Rogers and Keil Krumwiede doubled for an RBI each and Palensky then grounded out for the third run. A Breyden Eckhout single in the top of the second made it 4-0 Mavericks. The Jackrabbits finally found the scoreboard on a solo-shot homer in the top of the third, but Omaha responded with Krumwiede's three-shot home run that made it 7-1.

South Dakota State picked up some late momentum on a single-RBI and a three-run homer that cut the Omaha lead at 7-5 in the bottom of the sixth. Two innings later, the Jackrabbits scored two more runs and evened it up on a fielder's choice RBI and a double.

Entering the top of the ninth, Omaha needed some momentum. Bonar led things off with a single and then got to second on a wild pitch. That brought up Palensky and Smejkal, who were both walked and juiced the bases. Max Gamm then came in to pinch run for Smejkal. Up came DeBonville, who found his pitch and blasted his first-career grand slam over the left center fence for the go-ahead winning runs. His play gave Omaha a four-run cushion entering the bottom of the ninth, where the team closed out the game with a Hehnke strikeout and back-to-back pop ups for Rogers and Gamm.

Omaha now shifts its focus to a mid-week game at Kansas State next Wednesday, April 10, at 6 p.m. The road swing continues as the Mavericks are welcomed by Oral Roberts next weekend, April 12-14, for a three-game slate. For more information, visit