Before Friday night, Luke Fennelly had never delivered a walk-off hit.
In fact, the Loras infielder couldn’t even remember ever being a part of a walk-off victory.
Now, he has. On both counts.
Fennelly, a sophomore from Davenport, Iowa, delivered a one-out walk-off double in the bottom of the 10th inning, leading the Duhawks to a critical 6-5 victory over Wartburg at Petrakis Park.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Fennelly said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off win to be honest. Maybe one, but this one I’ll remember for a while.”
Tanner Fallon pitched out of trouble in the ninth and 10th innings for Loras, striking out the final three batters in the ninth with the potential go-ahead run in scoring position.
“(Loras coach Carl) Tebon has preached to us since Day 1, you’ve got to love it,” Fallon said. “You’ve got to love the moment, and I loved it.”
It was definitely an important win for Loras (15-17, 9-13 Americans Rivers Conference), which moved into a tie for fifth place in the conference and needs at least a split of today’s season-ending doubleheader against the Knights (11-23, 8-14) to clinch a berth in next weekend’s conference tournament, held May 9-11 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Four teams are fighting for the final two spots in the six-team tournament. Central (21-14, 9-13) and Nebraska Wesleyan (10-23, 8-13) are playing a three-game series in Lincoln, Neb., for the tournament’s other remaining berth. Nebraska Wesleyan, which had an April 28 game against Dubuque cancelled, took the opener, 12-11, on Friday night.
“This is huge, no doubt,” Tebon said. “You can’t say anything is over, but this game was an important game. I feel good coming back tomorrow with the pitchers we have. (We just have to) keep playing and hopefully we live until next weekend.”
Tyler Nunemaker doubled home a run and Brett Kelting added an RBI single later in the third inning as Wartburg took a 2-0 lead.
The Duhawks finally broke through in the sixth after loading the bases with one out.
Austin Konagel was hit by a pitch, Cole Thompson singled to left and Danny Paluch worked a walk to set up Robbie Agerbeek’s RBI single to center. Thompson was thrown out at home on the play as Loras cut the Knights’ lead to 2-1.
Dylan Pardoe beat out a bouncer back to Wartburg starter Dylan Gotto to reload the bases with two outs for Fennelly, who reached on an error as two runs scored to give Loras the lead.
Dubuque Wahlert grad Jake Oglesby drove home another run with a double to left-center.
Wartburg’s Tyler Hovick drove a two-run homer to left in the seventh to tie the game at four, and JoJo McNair’s solo shot gave the Knights a 5-4 lead in the eighth.
Oglesby’s RBI single in the bottom half knotted it back up at 5.
Gotto, a former Western Dubuque standout, allowed nine hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings for Wartburg, but did not factor in the decision. He struck out three. Only two of the five runs he allowed were earned.
Agerbeek walked to lead off the 10th, then moved to second on Pardoe’s sacrifice bunt.
Fennelly ended the game a couple of pitches later.
“I’ll take Luke up anytime in that situation,” Tebon said. “It really came back to Robbie getting the walk and then getting the bunt down. People forget those little things that win games.”