MANDAN, N.D. -- A ninth inning rally by Wayne State saw the Wildcats score three runs while leaving the bases loaded as top-seeded Augustana escaped with a 6-5 win over WSC Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the 2023 Northern Sun Conference Baseball Tournament. The Wildcats, now 24-25, play an elimination game Thursday at 12 p.m. vs. Southwest Minnesota State while Augustana is now 40-16 following the win.

Most of the game was a pitcher’s duel featuring starters Corbin Kirk of Wayne State and Seth Miller from Augustana.  Kirk struck out 12 batters in seven innings of work, but the Vikings used three home runs to score their four runs off Kirk with three of the runs coming on two out hits.  Miller fanned nine WSC batters in 7 1/3 innings.

Wayne State made the game interesting in the ninth with a two out rally that saw the ‘Cats produce five straight hits plus a walk to score three runs and load the bases until the Vikings finally recorded the final out with a fly ball to right center field to thwart the Wildcat comeback.

The ‘Cats opened the scoring in the third on a two-out rally as Cade Lynam doubled down the left field line and scored on a Carter Thomas single to right field for the first run of the game.

Augustana came back with three runs in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead on a solo homer followed by a two-run shot with two outs in the inning.

WSC got a run back in the fifth inning when Chase Douglas singled and later scored on an RBI groundout from Thomas to make the score 3-2.

The Vikings used a solo homer in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead and added two more runs in the eighth to take a 6-2 advantage into the ninth inning.

After the first two WSC batters were retired, pinch-hitter Nick Barnett singled to second base.  Braden Cannon followed with a single to right field and Douglas blasted a 2-2 pitch over the left center field wall to bring the Wildcats within one at 6-5.

The inning continued when Cade Lynam singled to left and Thomas singled through the right side giving WSC runners at first and second.  A walk to Colin Lynam loaded the bases, but Augustana got Hunter Babe to fly out to right center field to end the game as the Vikings escaped with a 6-5 win.

Wayne State held an 11-9 advantage in hits over the Vikings.  Five Wildcats had two hits each, led by Douglas going 2-4 with a three-run homer, three RBIs and two runs scored.  Cade Lynam was 2-5 with a double and run scored while Cannon finished 2 for 4 with a pair of singles and run scored.  Thomas added two singles and two RBI while Colin Lynam added two singles.

Kirk (4-5) suffered the pitching loss despite recording a season-high 12 strikeouts in seven innings of work.  He allowed just four runs on seven hits while throwing 116 pitches.  Cannon relieved in the eighth and was charged with two runs on two hits with one walk and one strikeout.

Wayne State faces Southwest Minnesota State in an elimination game Thursday afternoon at 12 p.m.  The two teams played a three-game series in Wayne in late March with the Mustangs winning all three games.