Webster’s baseball team was not going to let Washington University beat them again.
2018 was a year on a high for the Webster University Gorloks baseball team. A year prior, pitcher Josh Fleming became the first Gorlok to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft when Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the fifth round. After a regular season St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) championship and an appearance in the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Regionals in 2017, the Gorloks were looking to get some more hardware.
Going into the game on April 4 against Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) Bears, pitching was a priority. WashU beat Webster in 2017, and Webster’s starter, Matt Mulhearn, had only pitched 2 2/3 innings in his start before being pulled. WashU was ranked #16 for Division III schools in 2017 while Webster was unranked. In 2018, WashU was the unranked team facing the #25 Gorloks at GCS Ballpark in Sauget.
Mulhearn was on the mound again for Webster seeking revenge, and his approach going into the Wednesday night start was different from his 2017 start.
“It was an opportunity to redeem myself a bit as my freshman year start against them, I wasn’t as sharp,” Mulhearn said. “I definitely was a more confident pitcher in 2018. I was going in with the mentality that I was going to dominate and thinking that I couldn’t be beat.”
Conserving pitchers was a must as Webster had just come off a three game series, and had another in the following weekend. Webster needed Mulhearn to go deep into the game. And he did just that.
Mulhearn was perfect through 3 1/3 innings before giving up a single to WashU first baseman John Brinkman. Brinkman was thrown out by Webster’s left fielder, senior Ben Dinter, when he tried to stretch it into a double. It was a key play to keep the game scoreless, and Dinter would come up big for the Gorloks again later in the contest.
In the bottom of the sixth, with Mulhearn going strong for Webster on the mound, Dinter came to bat for his third plate appearance of the game. The Bears had gone to their bullpen, so Dinter was facing Freshman right-hander Troy Bauer to leadoff the inning. Dinter was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the game, but on a 1-1 count, he cranked a pitch deep into left-center. The ball went over the high outfield wall for a home run. The Gorloks had taken the lead 1-0 and they wouldn’t give it up.
WashU threatened in the top of the seventh with runners at second and third and two outs, but Shane Donovan came into pitch in relief and got out of it unscathed. An RBI groundout in the bottom half by Nate Tholl gave Webster an insurance run, and a sacrifice fly in the eighth by second baseman Conner Wardlaw put the game away. Donovan shut down the ninth and the Gorloks walked away with the 3-0 victory.
Gorlok third baseman Ben Swords was a freshman that year, and he said the win helped Webster realize how good of a team they were.
“That was a big win,” Swords said. “Getting the win over a team like [WashU] set the tone [for the rest of the season] and it sparked the fire for us.”
The Gorloks would win 21 of their next 22, including an immaculate 19 game winning streak to finish out the regular season. Webster won their seventh consecutive SLIAC regular-season championship. In the SLIAC playoffs, they beat the Greenville Panthers in a double-elimination contest at Greenville for their ninth SLIAC championship.
The Gorloks’ season would end in the NCAA Regionals with a loss to the University of Texas at Tyler Patriots. Webster baseball was ranked #7 for Division III when their season ended; the final postseason ranking had them at #13.
Swords is now a senior, but he said the win his rookie year was instrumental for many guys during their college careers, himself included. His approach that day has been a part of his mentality ever since.
“I had to figure out how to slow the game down as a freshman,” Swords said. “My approach that day was not letting the high-pressure moments cause a panic. I now embrace having to make plays.”