DUBUQUE, Iowa – Brett Crable had three hits, Matt Pennings earned his sixth save of the season and the Simpson baseball team boosted its Iowa Conference Tournament hopes with 5-4 win over Dubuque in the second half of Sunday's doubleheader.
Leading Dubuque by a game in the standings and tied with Luther – which has completed its regular season schedule – Simpson needs just one win in Monday's doubleheader against Dubuque to clinch a berth in the six-team Iowa Conference Tournament.
Jose Rodriguez (2-5) made the save opportunity possible by going 6 2/3 strong innings. After surrendering two runs in the first inning, he settled down and retired 10 of the next 11 batters. The senior gave up nine hits and four earned on the day.
Pennings entered the game in the seventh with Simpson up 5-4 with two outs and a runner on first. He needed two batters to get the third out of the inning, then got some help in the eighth when catcher Jake Esdohr threw out Austin Monfross attempting to steal third for the second out.
He then worked a 1-2-3 ninth to tie Simpson's single-season record for saves, joining Seth Williams (1999) and Jake Zellweger (1996).
In game one, Chris Briggs went 3-for-4 and Andy Danna drove in three runs for the Spartans (11-23, 9-17), who need to sweep Simpson on Monday to make the conference tournament.
Simpson trailed 10-3 heading into its at-bat in the sixth before a three-run homer by Craig – his seventh of the season – sparked five runs in the inning, trimming the lead to 10-8.
Craig doubled and scored on a two-run single by Heitmeier in the first that gave Simpson an early 2-1 lead.
Josh Eastman (3-3) gave up eight earned in 5 2/3 innings and Spencer Kuehn retired 3 of 4 in the seventh for his first save.
Gage Reis (4-3) failed to go six innings for the first time in four appearances, allowing six runs off seven hits in 3 2/3.
The four-game series concludes Monday at 1 p.m.