Never count ’em out: Hawks force extra innings, defeat Greyhounds on Simons’ single in 11th


The Quincy University baseball team celebrates its 5-4 victory in 11 innings over top-seeded Indianapolis in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament on Friday night at Mtn. Dew Park in Marion, Ill. | Photo courtesy Chris Kirn

MARION, Ill. — Connor Simons hadn’t had an official at-bat in nearly a month as he recovered from a concussion suffered in the final game of the Quincy University baseball team’s regular-season series against Indianapolis.

So consider this a little bit of payback for putting him on the shelf.

Simons drove a breaking ball on the outer half of the plate to right field with one out in the top of the 11th inning Friday night, driving in JD Ortiz with the go-ahead run of what ended up being a 5-4 victory over the top-seeded Greyhounds in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament at Mtn. Dew Park.

“I was battling to get my timing back my first few ABs,” said Simons, the senior catcher who served as the Hawks’ designated hitter Friday night. “I was just trying to see him up and put a good barrel on it. So it was nice to get one through the hole.”

It’s making the Hawks feel like a team of destiny.

Fourth-seeded Quincy won its opener Wednesday when Dustin DuPont hit a walk-off home run leading off the bottom of the 10th inning against Missouri-St. Louis. This time, the Hawks forced extra innings by scoring in the top of the ninth, got a game-saving catch from Ortiz to end the bottom of the ninth and saw a guy who hadn’t had an at-bat since April 14 win it.

“We haven’t seen a lot go our way this year,” Simons said. “We haven’t won the close ones this year. Winning back-to-back close ones means confidence is high and we’re feeling good after this.”

Everyone senses it.

“Everyone on the team has a different confidence in themselves and each other right now,” Ortiz said.

Quincy (27-25) advances to face either Drury or William Jewell at 4 p.m. Saturday, Second-seeded Maryville is the other undefeated team in the bracket and will face the winner of Lewis and Indianapolis at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Nobody left in the field has the same mojo brewing as the Hawks.

“That game gets your heart rate going quite a bit,” Simons said. “That’s a great win.”

Quincy trailed 4-3 going to the ninth inning before Austin Simpson drew a leadoff walk and Ortiz singled. After a sacrifice bunt by Jake Vitale moved both runners into scoring position, Simons grounded out to the second baseman to plate Simpson with the tying run.

“You need contributions throughout the lineup and we got that,” QU coach Matt Schissel said. “We had guys come through with some big at-bats.”

And some big defensive plays.

Ortiz made a diving catch in short right field for the final out of the ninth inning, colling with Vitale in the process but hanging on to the ball as Indianapolis stranded a pair of runners in scoring position. It kept the Hawks locked in and engaged.

“Late in the game, I knew we were close, so close,” Ortiz said. “And it didn’t happen, but I knew we were right there the whole time. It took a while, but we finally got it.”

In the 11th, Simpson led off with a single through the right side, but was erased when Ortiz hit into a fielder’s choice. Vitale singled through the left side of the infield to move Ortiz into scoring position, and Simons followed by slapping his single through the right side.

“I’m rounding third, and I wasn’t sure if (third base coach Chandler Purcell) was going to send me or not,” Ortiz said. “But I was probably going regardless of whether he sends me or not honestly. I’m on my way home and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t care if the ball beats me or I beat the ball or whatever happens. I’m not getting out.’ I just knew I wasn’t getting out.”

Left-handed reliever Roman Harrison made the lead last by striking out the side in the 11th. Harrison threw 3 ⅔ innings out of the bullpen, earning the victory as he allowed two hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

“That guy’s unbelievable,” Simons said. “He’s a hard pitcher to hit.”

So was QU senior starter Kobe Essien, who went 6 ⅔ innings with 10 strikeouts and three runs allowed. It was the second highest single-game strikeout effort of his career, the other being a 12-strikeout game against Indianapolis earlier this season.

“He battled and gave us everything and gave us a chance,” Schissel said. “Everyone did. Everyone worked hard to give us a chance.”

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