Hawks run out of gas in GLVC championship game, miss chance to make NCAA Tournament

QU baseball

The Quincy University baseball players were left with hugs and tears following Sunday's 11-1 loss to Maryville in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament championship game at Mtn. Dew Park in Marion, Ill. | Photo courtesy Stephanie Boynton

MARION, Ill. — Hope lasted about six hours.

Following Sunday’s 11-1 loss to Maryville in the championship game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament, the Quincy University baseball players had time before and after a four-plus-hour bus ride home from Mtn. Dew Park to believe they might still get in the NCAA Division II national tournament.

About 9:40 p.m. Sunday night, the Hawks learned all hope was gone.

The final at-large bid to the Midwest Regional went to Northwood, which finished with four more regular-season victories than Quincy and a higher winning percentage against teams with a .500 or better record. It ends Quincy’s streak of eight consecutive NCAA appearances.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t do enough to make it happen,” QU coach Matt Schissel said.

A stellar finish to the season couldn’t negate the struggling start.

The Hawks (28-26) won nine of their final 10 games and 14 of their final 16, climbing from ninth in the GLVC standings to the fourth seed for the postseason conference tournament. They played their way into the title game with three consecutive extra-inning victories, including beating Indianapolis, which received the No. 2 regional seed.

Sunday, the mojo ran out.

“It just got away from us,” Schissel said.

It didn’t feel that early on as Austin Simpson, who belted a walk-off grand slam Saturday night against William Jewell, hit a solo home run to center field in his first at-bat Sunday leading off the second inning. It gave everyone in the dugout the “here we go” vibes.

“Myself included,” Schissel said.

The offense never materialized thereafter. Maryville freshman right-hander Sam Cardwell, who had pitched 8 ⅓ innings all season, handcuffed Quincy by allowing just four hits, while striking out five and walking just two in a complete-game effort.

Backing him was a patient offense. The Saints scored three runs off Hawks starter Kade Ruffner in the bottom of the second inning as Matt Schuler got the inning going with a leadoff walk.

GLVC Pitcher of the Year Griffin Kirn, who started Wednesday’s victory over Missouri-St. Louis, came back on short rest, entering in the bottom of the fifth with QU trailing 3-1. He couldn’t locate his pitches, walking the first three batters he faced and four overall in two-thirds of a inning.

Maryville scored four runs in the fifth, tacked on one run in the sixth and three more in the seventh.

“Down two runs, we felt like we were in the ballgame,” Schissel said. “We had shown that every day of the week, but we couldn’t put up a zero defensively and offensively we couldn’t figure out a way to manufacture anything. Whenever we did get baserunners, we couldn’t move guys or drive guys in.

“It just wasn’t our day of baseball.”

Maryville opened the day beating Lewis 11-9 as the Saints rallied from a five-run deficit by scoring six runs in the sixth inning and getting a stellar relief effort from Quincy High School graduate Noah Harbin.

The right-handed Harbin threw the final three innings, allowing one run and four hits with one strikeout and one walk to earn the victory.

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