WATERLOO – Edwin Jimenez (Sr.-Lawrenceville, Ga.) hit a two-out, two-run double in the top of the 11th inning and Milton Gonzalez (Jr.-Canovanas, Puerto Rico) finished off a courageous pitching performance as Iowa Wesleyan College stayed alive in the Midwest Collegiate Conference baseball tourney with a 5-3 win over Mount Mercy College Saturday night at Riverfront Stadium.
The third-seeded Tigers eliminated the #2 seed Mustangs and now face top seeded William Penn University Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. IWC will need to beat the Statesmen twice on Sunday after Penn moved to 2-0 in the tourney with a 6-5 win over Mount Mercy earlier in the day Saturday.
The Tigers (29-21 overall) advanced to Sunday play on the strength of Gonzalez’s complete game, 11-inning ironman performance to remember. The junior allowed just five hits and one earned run over 11 innings, battling through early control problems to dominate the middle and later innings. Gonzalez walked four and hit six batters in the game, but settled down when it counted most, limiting the Mustangs (27-23 overall) to one hit over the final five innings.
Gonzalez appeared to have received enough run support to earn the Tigers the win in nine innings, but the Mustangs’ one hit in those five innings was a big one and temporarily negated Wesleyan’s good work earlier to take the lead in a pitching duel.
After Mount Mercy scored the game’s first run in the fourth inning, the Tigers tied it when Roderick Barcelo (Jr.-Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) grounded out and Devin Smith (Sr.-Lynwood, Ill.) scored in the sixth. IWC then took its first lead in the eighth when Frany Cruz (Sr.-Toa Baja, Puerto Rico) and Zach Starkey (Sr.-Aurora, Ill.) delivered back-to-back RBI singles for a 3-1 lead. The Tigers still led by two going into the bottom of the ninth, but Mount Mercy took advantage of an error and a walk to put runners at second and third with one out.
Gonzalez looked ready to get out of it, inducing Vince Valdez into a foul out to right field and with two outs was getting ahead of Matthew Mercier 1-2 in the count. Mercier came through, though, hitting an opposite field double down the right field line to tie the game at 3-3. Mercier moved to third on another error, but Gonzalez got Ryan Harding to strike out swinging to send the game to extra innings.
The Tigers made some noise in the top of the 11th when Starkey led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a balk. He was still there though after a pop out and then a walk to Diego Marquez (Jr.-Los Mochis Sinaloa, Mexico) when Jimenez crushed a Sean McIntosh pitch off the top of the wall to score a pair. This time the two-run margin stood up as Gonzalez struck out a pair in the bottom of the 11th and finished the game by fanning Ryan Lopez to close it out with his seventh strikeout.
Jimenez, Smith, Starkey and Marquez all had two hits, combining for eight of IWC’s 10 safeties. IWC now will need to defeat William Penn in Sunday’s first game. With a Tiger win in that game, the two teams will then play a second, winner-take-all game immediately after, with the winner receiving the conference’s automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.