University of Missouri-St. Louis senior John Pilackas has had a tough time duplicating the First Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference success he had as a junior, when he hit .293, drove in 32 runs, and led the team with 10 home runs (fourth most in a single season in UMSL history).
This season though, Pilackas has been struggling to find his power touch, with only one homer in the Tritons’ first 40 games.
But on Wednesday, the power-hitting rightfielder from nearby Lebanon, Ill., came up huge during the annual UMSL Bleacher Bash, as he launched a deep-fly over the left-centerfield fence in the bottom of the sixth inning that broke a 2-2 tie, and helped the Tritons pull out a 4-2 victory over visiting McKendree University.
UMSL would later lose Game 2 of the doubleheader, 9-1, to finish the day with a 25-17 overall record and 21-11 mark in GLVC play.
That second game against McKendree also marked the final home game of the 2013 season for the Tritons, who went 13-9 at the UMSL Baseball Field, making it the second straight winning season at home for the team, after suffering two straight losing seasons at home when the South Campus ballpark opened for play in 2010.
Pilackas now has 12 homers in his UMSL career, and is just two homers shy of joining the Triton top ten of all-time home run hitters. Program greats Eric Blaha and Bob Mutnansky are UMSL’s all-time leader in home runs with 24.
The other hitting stars of the day for UMSL, were senior Lucas Matecki and junior Justin Lois.
Matecki delivered the two-out double down the rightfield line that scored fellow senior Drew Standefer with the tying run, while Lois drove in two runs, on an RBI groundout in the fifth, and an RBI single in the sixth.
On the mound, it was reliever Kyle Dermody (1-1) that got the win — his first as a Triton — after coming in behind starter Nick Dorsey, who went 3 2/3 innings, but ran out of gas after allowing both McKendree runs on six hits and two walks.
Dermody, a junior righthander from Morrison, Ill., hadn’t pitched in nearly a month, but was dynamite when called upon on Wednesday — throwing 2 1/3 shutout innings at McKendree, with just one hit and one walk allowed, and one strikeout.
Once the Tritons got the lead, that meant it was Kyle Renaud time.
And the Triton closer delivered, with a relatively easy final inning for his 14th save of the season, which ties Renaud with Zach Loraine of Coker College in South Carolina for the most saves in the nation this season.
UMSL will get the next two days off, before traveling to Quincy, Ill., this weekend, for the final four-game series of the regular season against longtime rival Quincy University.
The Tritons and Hawks will play doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, with both clubs looking to clinch spots in next week’s GLVC Championship Tournament in Evansville, Ind.
UMSL is currently tied for the No. 3 spot with Saint Joseph’s, while Quincy holds the No. 4 spot among the league’s 16 teams.
But only the top eight teams make the tournament, and going into the final weekend of the regular season, there are 10 teams that still have a shot at getting into the postseason.
UMSL still has an outside shot at winning the GLVC West title as well.
But the Tritons would need to win at least three of four against Quincy and have first-place Drury lose all four games it will play at William Jewell this weekend.