We are back for day two of the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals. After an eventful day one which saw two upsets (IMO), it seems as if things are primed for another day of surprises. We will see what the second day of action brings us, as we review day one of action and preview day two.
First, our day one recap of the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals.
West Chester - 9
North Georgia - 4
W: Jon Fisher (8-2); L: Dylan McCrary (10-2)
It was one swing of the bat which gave all the momentum in the world to the Golden Rams of West Chester.
North Georgia picked up the first runs of the game with a productive top of the second inning. The Nighthawks got a lead-off single and an RBI triple to drive in the first run, then got an RBI ground out and an RBI single to push the lead to 3-0.
For West Chester, it was one swing in the bottom of the third that did most of the damage. After a one-out single and a fielder's choice, a walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with two out. That is when Jared Melone, one of the heroes of last week's regional tournament, came to the plate and smacked a grand slam over the center field wall to put WCU up 4-3.
That score stuck until the bottom of the seventh, where WCU tacked on a five-spot to give themselves the breathing room they needed and wanted. After already driving in one run, WCU used four straight singles to drive in four more runs and go up 9-3.
There was not much resistance from UNG the rest of the way, as WCU nailed down the opening game victory and send the Nighthawks to the brink of elimination.
Melone's grand slam was the highlight for a 2-for-4 day, as the 2-3-4 hitters for WCU combined to go 6-for-12 with four runs and five RBI. Anthony Salomone was 3-for-4. Jon Fisher got the victory on the mound with eight stellar innings of work, allowing six hits and three runs against the nation's leading offense.
McCrary took the loss for UNG, which got a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance from Connor Hoover, and a 2-for-4, two runs, one-RBI game from Steven Tomlinson with a triple.
Lindenwood - 4
Delta State - 0
W: Brendan Feldmann (10-3); L: Seth Birdsong (10-2)
Lindenwood, making its Division II finals debut, pulled what might end up being the biggest upset of the tournament by the time we're finished, taking down the team making its 12th appearance at the national finals, the same amount of appearances as the other seven schools in this tournament combined.
The Lions got all they needed for this game in the first three innings of the contest.
With two outs and a man on second, Drew Quinones got his first of four hits on the day to put runners on the corners, and Kyle Teter took advantage of an error to begin the inning by bringing Wes Degener in to score on an RBI single.
In the bottom of the second inning, Lindenwood capitalized on a Sam Baxter one-out triple to bring him in to score on a one-out sacrifice fly from Paul Sherwood to push the lead to 2-0.
The scoring ceased in the bottom of the third, as a run scored on a double play and another run was pushed across when the aforementioned Baxter laid down a bunt single that scored Teter, who singled earlier in the frame.
Up 4-0, the story was Brendan Feldmann shutting down a potent offense and arguably the favorite in this national finals tournament.
Feldmann allowed only two hits in seven innings of work with four strikeouts, while Connor Law did Connor Law things and shut down the Statesmen in the final two innings of work. The offense was led by Quinones' 4-for-4 day with one run scored, along with Baxter going 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI, including his triple, and Teter going 2-for-3 with a run scored and his 60th RBI of the season.
DSU's Juwan Burney (2-for-4) was the only Statesman to record multiple hits in the game.
Lindenwood advances to face West Chester, while Delta State will meet up with North Georgia in a surprising early elimination game.
With that said, we are on day two of action in Grand Prairie, Texas.
St. Thomas Aquinas (42-15, 20-5 ECC) vs UC San Diego (40-17, 24-13 CCAA)
Sunday, May 28th, 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Our day two action begins with two teams that can't get much further away from each other. The two polar opposites, geographically, will do battle to begin the second day of play.
STA will most likely roll out its ace, Frankie Moscatiello (9-1, 1.59 ERA), and he will be facing UCSD's fifth-year senior, Troy Cruz (8-2, 4.11 ERA). While he might not be considered UCSD's "ace", he seems to have won the coach's confidence in his odds of givine a good performance to begin these finals.
STA's offensive numbers aren't the greatest due to the nature of its using wooden bats during the regular season, but they still boast quite a few more-than-capable hitters. Joseph Pena (.391 avg, 60 R, 11 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 24/30 SB, 49/23 BB/K) does just about everything for the Spartans, while Giovanni Dingcong (.301 avg, 51 R, 4 2B, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 24/28 SB) does nothing but drop bombs and swipe bags. 18 home runs in a wood bat league is stupid.
UCSD's offense will lean on, as usual, Jack Larsen (.346 avg, 61 R, 19 2B, 14 HR, 59 RBI, .654 SLG, .483 OBP), who leads the team in just about every category.
One thing to keep an eye on here is that STA is 107/140 in stolen base attempts this year, while UCSD's catchers have thrown out 21 of 51 potential base stealers, a *great* number. Cruz, however, has allowed 4-of-5 stolen base attempts while on the mound. We'll see if UCSD wants to start Kitzmann (7-of-16 caught), Palos (6-of-13 caught) or Coe (5-of-19 caught) behind the plate against a speedy team.
Quincy (37-21, 17-10 GLVC) vs Colorado Mesa (48-10, 32-4 RMAC)
Sunday, May 28th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
On paper, this match-up looks to be very much tilted in one direction. However, we have learned time and time again that it doesn't matter much what the records look like once you get to the finals tournament.
Besides, Quincy is 11-1 on neutral fields this year!
We've discussed, at length, the various video game numbers that Colorado Mesa has on the offensive side of the game. They are the leading team in this tournament in batting average (.340) and slugging percentage (.534) as a team, and that is led by Bligh Madris (.438 avg, 54 R, 14 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 66 RBI, .786 SLG, .526 OBP, 13/17 SB), who leads the team in most categories. He is one of four regular starters hitting over .350, and one of five starters with at least 12 doubles. Kyle Serrano (.411 avg, 23 2B, 9 HR, 33 RBI, .502 OBP) leads the team in doubles, while PJ Gonzalez (.367 avg, 69 R, 22 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 20/23 SB) leads the team in stolen bases as well as being a threat at the plate.
QU doesn't boast the team-wide huge numbers, but does have a trio of huge bats in the lineup that can go deep at any time. Troy Wehde (.353 avg, 37 R, 9 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI, .641 SLG), J.C. DeMuri (.344 avg, 52 R, 9 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 60 RBI) and Jake Walters (.320, 64 R, 15 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .685 SLG) are all very adept at playing long ball, while Dominic Miles (.348 avg, 63 R, 12 2B, 5 HR, 33 RBI, .459 OBP, 20/23 SB) loves getting on base and stealing bags at the top of the lineup.
The Hawks should begin the tournament by rolling out its ace, Graham Spraker (7-5, 2.61 ERA), the only starter with an ERA under 4.50. CMU will most likely counter with national Pitcher of the Year candidate Kyle Leahy (13-0, 1.22 ERA), a guy who has put up incredible numbers for pitching in some not-very-pitcher-friendly air most of the year.