CALEDONIA, Mich. — Some might think Alex Pribyl actually enjoys the suspense.
“It’s not me if I don’t make it interesting, isn’t that right?” the Quincy University right-handed reliever said.
So the fact he allowed a single and a walk to the first two Davenport hitters in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday with the Hawks clinging to a two-run lead and their season on the line didn’t seem to faze or surprise anyone.
“It’s not a Pribyl inning if he doesn’t get a few guys on, right?” QU first baseman Lance Logsdon said. “It just makes your heart beat a little faster.”
It makes his Houdini act of escaping danger all the more impressive.
Pribyl stranded both runners right where they stood, striking out the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the Panthers’ lineup to punctuate a 9-7 victory at Farmers Insurance Athletic Complex and send the Hawks to the super-regional as the champion of NCAA Division II Midwest Regional #1.
“It’s a great feeling,” Pribyl said. “I don’t know how else to describe it to you.”
It’s why he underwent two elbow surgeries and returned to be a vitally important part of the Hawks’ pitching staff in his sixth season at the collegiate level.
“It’s been worth it,” Pribyl said. “It’s definitely been worth it.”
For a fleeting moment, there was a question whether Pribyl would finish things the right way.
After working around a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, Pribyl allowed Davenport center fielder Nolan Anspaugh, a first-team All-Midwest Region selection, to stroke a single to right-center field leading off the ninth.
“He’s just a damn good hitter,” Pribyl said. “I’ll give him that all day. I couldn’t locate a curveball and I knew he was going to sit on a heater, and he hit it. I was like, ‘Whatever he does doesn’t matter anyway. We’re up two.’”
After Anspaugh stole second base, Pribyl wasn’t going to allow Geotano Vallone to do any damage. So he danced around him with a four-pitch walk.
“I really wasn’t going to feed it down the middle,” Pribyl said.
QU coach Matt Schissel visited the mound at that point for a short, pointed discussion.
“We reset and we got through it,” Pribyl said.
It started with a strikeout of Panthers first baseman Noah Marcoux, who was the leading home run hitter in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“Huge,” Schissel said. “And I think all weekend, the moment never got too big for our guys.”
Pribyl wouldn’t let it.
“One of my sayings going back is ‘Don’t let the game get too big on you,’” Pribyl said. “Act like you’ve been there before.”
He had been there before. In 2017, when the Hawks won the Midwest Regional and made the only NCAA Division II World Series appearance in program history, Pribyl threw two scoreless innings of relief in a 2-0 victory over Northwood in the regional championship game as a true freshman.
“I said I want the one guy who has played in this game before to do it and he did it,” Schissel said.
Strikeouts of the Panthers’ Ben Mets and Carson Eby ended the game as Pribyl threw his glove in the air and the Hawks poured out of the dugout to rush the field.
“You kind of black out, honestly,” Pribyl said of that moment. “So many emotions hit you at the same time. (Hawks catcher Luke Napleton) sprinted out to me and hugged me after I threw my glove. I kind of held on to him for dear life because the rest of the guys were taking us to the ground.”
It’s the moment Pribyl’s perseverance and persistence created.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
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