RSU’s Keller leads Hillcats to victory in NCAA Tournament opener

RSU Athletics 
Benjamin Dishong, Sports Information Director

SAN ANGELO, TexasGriffin Keller went 4-for-4 to lead the way for Rogers State, as the Hillcats celebrated their NCAA Tournament debut with a 9-5 victory over No. 19 Lubbock Christian in the opening round of the NCAA South Central II Regional.

Keller had a double and three singles in a perfect day at the plate, driving in three runs while also scoring a run to lead the way for the Hillcats.

The Hillcats actually fell behind early, as Lubbock Christian scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take an early lead.

Nick Follett put the Hillcats on the scoreboard with a towering home run to left center in the top of the second.

However, the Chaps would come back in the bottom half of the inning with another run to regain a two-run advantage.

Christopher Ford jump started the Hillcats in the third with a leadoff single. After Zack Mann drew a one-out walk, Grant Farris continued his hot postseason at the plate with an RBI single to right, scoring Ford.

Brandon Bradshaw brought around another run with an RBI groundout to the right side, allowing Mann to tie the game from third.

Following a walk from Follett, Farris picked up his second hit of the game with a double down the left field line, scoring Farris.

Brendan Griffith wrapped the big inning for Rogers State as he singled up the middle to score Follett and then Keller, as the Hillcats took a 6-3 lead.

Rogers State starter Jackson Simonsgaard would pitch scoreless innings in the third and fourth, but left the game after allowing a run in the fifth with two outs.

Sean Robinson came into the game with the bases loaded and got the Hillcats out of the jam. He would pitch 2.2 innings in relief, allowing one run as he picked up the winning decision as Simonsgaard didn’t meet the starter’s minimum.

Rogers State would extend it’s lead in the seventh inning as the Hillcats plated three runs. After a Christian Merriwether double and walks from Mann and Farris, Follett brought in another run with an RBI walk.

Keller then capped off the big night with a single through the right side, scoring Mann and Farris, as the Hillcats went ahead 9-4.

Lubbock Christian would add a run in the eighth inning, but Brock Knoten came in to record his 14th save of the season, tying for the NCAA Division II lead, while also extending his single-season saves record for Rogers State. With the appearance, Knoten also set a new Rogers State record for pitching appearances with 58 for his career.

Rogers State will play No. 1 seed and fourth-ranked Angelo State at 7 p.m. on Friday. Angelo State will play Lubbock Christian beforehand, with Angelo State potentially eliminating the Chaps. With an Angelo State win over LCU, the Hillcats game against the hosts would start a best-of-three series to claim the South Central Region II championship.