COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Omaha baseball team rallied from an early eight-run deficit and staved off a late surge to defeat Air Force 17-16 Wednesday afternoon at Falcon Field. The Mavericks improved to 8-28 on the year, while the Falcons dropped to 16-20.
Junior Ryan Cate turned in a career-best plate performance, going 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs scored and six RBI. Sophomore Riley Herold was also 3-for-6 with a run and four RBI, and sophomore Jack Kalina went 2-for-5 with his first home run of the season. The Mavericks had a season-high 18 hits on the day.
Junior right-hander Payton Kinney (1-1) picked up the win in relief, throwing 5.1 innings while allowing four runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. The loss went to Shawn Kelley (0-2), who gave up four runs on four hits and two walks. Kinney retired 14 consecutive Air Force batters from the third to the seventh inning before allowing a leadoff single in the eighth.
Omaha found itself in an eight-run hole to start the game, as Air Force took an 8-0 lead with four runs both in the first and second innings. The Mavericks scored five runs on five hits in the third inning, including Kalina's two-run homer to left that put them on the board. Redshirt freshman Andrew Hall also came up with a two-run single and Herold added an RBI single in the inning, which cut it to 8-5.
Omaha went ahead in the fourth with a five-run, three-hit inning. A Cate RBI double and an RBI single by sophomore Grant Suponchick pulled the Mavericks within one at 8-7 before they loaded the bases for Herold, who smashed a bases-clearing three-run double to center to go up 10-8.
Omaha added another run in the fifth, four in the sixth and two in the eighth to grow its lead to 17-8, but Air Force struck for eight unanswered runs over the eighth and ninth innings. In the ninth, RBI singles by Drew Wiss and Bradley Haslam got the Falcons' scoring started before Tyler Zabojnik's two-out, two-run double made it a one-run ballgame. With the tying run in scoring position, Cate fanned Air Force's cleanup hitter to end the game, and Omaha escaped with the 17-16 win.
The Falcons were led by Zabojnik's 3-for-6 day with a home run, a double and four runs driven in.
Omaha returns to action on Friday, April 21, visiting North Dakota State. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. in Fargo, N.D., and links to live stats, audio and video will be available on OMavs.com.