CEDAR CITY, Utah - Southern Utah combined strong outing from freshman pitcher Chris Chung with a late inning rally to pick up a win in their first conference game of the season against Summit League foe North Dakota State. The Thunderbirds trailed most of the game before scoring three runs in the seventh inning and then held on for the 4-3 victory over the Bison.
North Dakota State jumped out to an early lead in the first inning when first baseman Zach Heidmann hit a double to deep left field, scoring Zach Wentz from first. In the bottom of the inning Bo Cuthbertson reached base with a two out single to center field. He would then advance to second on passed ball. Mitchell Kauweloa then hit a single to drive in the run and knot the score at 1-1.
The Bison retook the lead in following inning thanks to a lead off double from catcher Tyler Steen who was later driven in on an RBI single off the bat of Max Casper. The score would remain 2-1 in favor of the visitors until the Thunderbirds mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh. Chase Rezac singled to center field to give SUU a base runner, then promptly stole second. He then advanced to third on a single hit to center field hit by centerfielder Marcus Romero. Down a run with runners on the corners the Thunderbirds’ RBI leader stepped to the plate. Cuthbertson would hit a triple down the right field line scoring two go-ahead runs. In the next at bat he scored from third on a wild pitch to give Southern Utah a 4-2 lead.
After the game SUU Coach David Eldredge commented on the pivotal inning for his team. “In that situation you have to consider the squeeze, but with Bo’s average it is hard to take the bat out of his hands. I told him to go up there and do what he has done all year for us.”
North Dakota State would add a run in the eighth, but Southern Utah’s pitching would keep the Bison offense in check for a final score of 4-3. Chung had another impressive start for the Thunderbirds, giving up only three runs while striking out seven over eight innings. Eldredge spoke highly of his freshman pitcher following the game. “His performance was outstanding. He struggled a little in the first couple of innings because he was trying too hard to throw strikes. He has three good pitches, so I told him to go out there and pitch how he felt comfortable.” As a result Chung earned a team best fifth win this season and improved his record to 5-3 overall.
With the win the Thunderbirds are now 12-14 on the year and 1-0 in conference play. The loss drops the Bison’s overall record to 2-17, 0-1 in the Summit League. The two teams will meet again tomorrow in a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 12:00 p.m. Due to expected snowfall, Friday’s games will be played at Dixie High School in St. George, Utah.