SPRING ARBOR, Mich. – Spring Arbor University head baseball coach Sam Riggleman notched his 1,000th career victory in dramatic fashion on Tuesday with a 3-2 walk-off win over Marian University at Hank Burbridge Field.
With the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, junior Mitchel Patterson ripped the first offering he saw into the right field corner allowing freshman Francisco Ondina to race home all the way from first base to clinch the victory.
“What an incredible accomplishment for Coach Riggleman,” said SAU Director of Athletics Ryan Cottingham. “He has proven to be a model of consistency over a long period of time. The 1,000 wins are certainly very impressive and put him in select company amongst some of the all-time greats at any level. However, the lives Coach Riggleman has impacted for the Kingdom of God is of far greater significance. His legacy and influence will carry on long after he’s done coaching. Sam is a minister disguised as a baseball coach, and he happens to be one of the best at both!”
Senior JP Maracani broke a scoreless tie with his sixth home run of the season in the fourth inning, but Marian (16-17, 15-13 Crossroads League) responded immediately with a pair of runs in the fifth to jump in front 2-1.
Looking to avoid their third straight loss, the Cougars rallied in the sixth to even the score. Senior Tyler Baker drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive and, after freshman Adam Rojas reached on an MU error, fellow freshman Conner Lengerich smacked an RBI single to center.
The Knights put the go-ahead run on second in the seventh, but sophomore pitcher Robert Cleary, who was outstanding on the afternoon, induced a fly out to end the threat, setting the stage for Patterson’s heroics in the home half of the inning.
Cleary earned his fifth win of the season after going the distance allowing just two runs on six hits while fanning a career-high eight batters.
Riggleman, in his 11th year coaching the Cougars, becomes the 19th coach in NAIA history to reach 1,000 wins, and currently ranks ninth among active NAIA baseball coaches with a career record of 1,000-636-2.
“I love the fact that every single day I get to put on that uniform that says ‘Cougars’ on the front and represent a place that means so much to me personally,” said Riggleman, “so it is a special time, and place, that I’m very grateful for.”
Spring Arbor (26-15, 18-10 Crossroads League) has secured the third spot in the Crossroads League standings and will host the first round of the conference tournament on Saturday, May 2.