First, our day four recap of the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals.
Game Seven **Elimination Game**
UC San Diego - 10
Quincy - 8
W: Preston Mott (8-4); L: Tommy Hager (1-3); S: Kyle Goodbrand (3)
UC San Diego trailed 7-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, but stormed back for a 10-8 victory behind stellar relief pitching and some big bats.
Quincy got first at-bats and took advantage early, scoring on a passed ball with two outs after tallying two hits and a hit-by-pitch in the inning.
The Tritons were quick to respond with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, as JD Hearn delivered in the first at-bat of his big day, lacing an RBI single with two outs that scored Jack Larsen to tie the game up at one.
Disaster seemed to strike for UCSD in the top of the third, as Quincy brought 10 men to the plate, tallying five hits en route to a five-run inning. Dominic Miles began the frame with a single, followed by singles from Jake Walters and J.C. DeMuri to load the bases with nobody out. Troy Wehde brought in the first run with a bases loaded walk, and Nolan Snyder delivered a two-RBI single to make it a 4-1 contest. After a one-out single, Chandler Purcell walked to load the bases yet again, and another run came in to score on a passed ball. The scoring mercifully ended after a sacrifice fly was lifted in to right field by Jack Klages. The damage was done, as QU came away with a 6-1 lead.
The Hawks tacked on yet another run in the top of the fourth, with Snyder driving in Walters on a fielder's choice ground out to make it 7-1.
As good as QU's third inning was, UCSD was even better in the bottom of the fourth. The Tritons brought 11 men to the plate, tallied five hits and took advantage of a Quincy error to put up six runs in the frame. Keenan Brigman doubled to lead off the inning, and a pinch-hit walk put two on. QU appeared to get back on track with two quick outs on the next two pitches, but UCSD was just getting started. Larsen walked to load the bases, and Brandon Shirley hit a two-RBI double down the left field line to cut the lead to 7-3. Tyler Durna followed with a two-RBI single to center to make it 7-5, and a single by Alex Eliopulos kept the train rolling. After a pitching change, Hearn tallied an infield single to score Durna and make it 7-6, and Brigman came to the plate for the second time in the inning and reached on an error by the second baseman that should have ended the inning, scoring Eliopulos to tie the game at seven.
The Hawks had a good response, taking the lead back in the top of the fifth, getting three straight walks and then an RBI ground out from Walters to go back up, 8-7.
In the bottom of the sixth, UCSD would fight back yet again, and this time for good, as Hearn reached on an error, stole second, and came around to score on an RBI double by J.T. Williams to tie the game back up at 8-8. He was followed with a go-ahead RBI single from Michael Palos to make it a 9-8 Triton lead.
UCSD would tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with a sacrifice fly by Palos, and Kyle Goodbrand would continue to roll, as the Tritons staved off imagination to play another day with a 10-8 victory.
Preston Mott picked up the victory on the mound with 4.2 innings of relief, allowing only one hit with six strikeouts, although he did issue four walks and allowed two earned runs. Goodbrand's save came off the back of 2.0 innings of shutout relief, with only one hit allowed. Shirley, Durna, Palos and Hearn each drove in two, with Hearn leading the way, going 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, including a double. UCSD fought through a tough game for the top of its lineup, as Larsen and Shirley combined to go 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts, but still scored three times, walked twice, and drove in two.
Walters had a good game for QU, going 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI, while Snyder was 1-for-3 with a run scored and three RBI.
Quincy ends the season 37-23 overall, while UCSD advances to face Lindenwood in an elimination game on Wednesday (May 31).
St. Thomas Aquinas - 3
Colorado Mesa - 2 (10 inn.)
W: Chris Pennell (3-2); L: Tyler Day (6-3); S: George Navadel (9)
In the winner's bracket game of day four, we had yet another classic.
We began with a pitcher's duel, as the two starters, TJ McDermott and Chris Cepeda, exchanged throwing up zeroes for the first four innings of the game. McDermott got through a fifth shutout inning, but Cepeda succumbed to a run, finally, in the bottom of the fifth.
Kevan Elccock began the frame for CMU with a lead-off single, then moved to third on an error. With one out, JJ Carr tallied an RBI single through the left side of the infield, breaking the scoreless tie and putting the Mavericks in front, 1-0.
In the top of the seventh, St. Thomas Aquinas was able to even the contest back up. Greg Dawber led off with a single, and after two outs, Nicholas Lucchese came through with a clutch RBI single to score Anthony Maisano, who pinch ran for Dawber. Following a pitching change that saw McDermott exit, Anthony Shkrelja singled, and Giovcanni Dingcong singled to load the bases, but Jake Mielock got a ground out to end the threat and keep the game tied at one.
We wound up with a tie game in to extra innings for the second straight game for STAC. In the top of the 10th inning, Dingcong led off with a single, but CMU countered with two outs. With one on and two gone, Michael Morgan, who reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved to third on an error by the catcher trying to throw him out. That is when Juan Adorno came up with the biggest knock of the game, lifting a double to score Morgan and take a 2-1 lead. Maisano followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 3-1.
CMU eventually got out of trouble, and attempted to stage its comeback. After two outs in four pitches to begin the inning, Brick Paskiewicz singled, moved to second on a single by Andrew Contreras, and then came in to score on an Elcock single to cut the lead to 3-2. With the tying run on second, Zach McLeod, however, struck out to end the game and send STA in to the national semifinals.
Cepeda was stellar on the mound despite not factoring in to the decision. He threw 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and one unearned run while striking out three. Chris Pennell got the victory, throwing 2.1 innings of hitless relief with three strikeouts. Dingcong finished the game 3-for-5 at the plate, while Lucchese and Morgan each went 2-for-5, with Lucchese driving in a run and Morgan scoring once. Adorno and Maisano each had one hit and an RBI.
Contreras, Elcock and McLeod each went 2-for-5 for the Mavericks, with Elcock driving in a run and scoring once. McDermott was his usual self on the mound, striking out nine over 6.2 innings, allowing only five hits and one run.
Colorado Mesa will hit the field again on Wednesday with an elimination game against Delta State in what should be a high-caliber affair.
UC San Diego (41-18, 24-13 CCAA) vs Lindenwood (40-19, 24-11 MIAA)
Wednesday, May 31st, 4:00 p.m. Eastern
UCSD has a deep rotation, and they'll use that to their advantage on Wednesday, as they'll have a bevy of choices to put out on the mound. Jack Rupe (4-2, 3.28 ERA) is the only starter to not get time on the mound yet, so he is probably the favorite, unless they want to go with sophomore Kyle Mora, who hasn't started a game since March 17th. I would anticipate Rupe to get the nod for the Tritons.
For Lindenwood, the choices are Blake Beckmann (7-4, 5.03 ERA) or Kyle Hentis (6-1, 5.43 ERA). Beckmann threw eight strong innings in the regional tournament against Central Oklahoma to earn the victory, while Hentis allowed seven runs (six earned) and 10 hits in 5.1 innings of work his last time out against St. Cloud State in the regional.
Colorado Mesa (49-11, 32-4 RMAC) vs Delta State (45-12, 25-8 GSC)
Wednesday, May 31st, 8:00 p.m. EasternLive Stats
Arguably two of the top teams in this finals field, the Mavs and Statesmen will do battle in a huge elimination game on Wednesday evening.
CMU will most likely lean on Chris Ramirez (9-1, 3.54 ERA), while DSU should be turning to Corey Beard (6-0, 4.35 ERA), who has a lot to live up to after Tre Hobbs' incredible performance in the last game.
Beard has not made it past the fifth inning in either of his last two starts. Ramirez threw a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts and only four hits allowed against Angelo State in the South Central regional tournament.