Day three, and our first elimination game, are upon us on Memorial Day. We had another eventful day of first round match-ups, and now we get in to the part of the tournament where we are sending teams home. And unfortunately, today, we will be sending home a very good squad.
First, our day two recap of the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals.
St. Thomas Aquinas - 6
UC San Diego - 5 (12 inn.)
W: Anthony Morris (10-1); L: Blaine Jarvis (1-2)
What a game we led off with on day two.
St. Thomas Aquinas had half as many hits as UCSD in the game, but somehow came away with an incredible victory.
The scoring started in the top of the third, with the first of many huge moments for UCSD's Jack Larsen. After a one-out single by Nick Kitzmann, Larsen came to the plate with two down and promptly gave the Tritons a 2-0 lead with a homer down the right field line.
The Spartans were not to be outdone, however. Giovanni Dingcong, he of 18 home runs on the year, lifted his 19th over the wall with a two-out three-run bomb that put STAC out front, 3-2.
After a scoreless fourth inning, it was Larsen again in the fifth inning who tied the game up with a two-out RBI single to make it a 3-3 contest.
That score held deep in to the game, as UCSD stranded go-ahead runs on third in both the top of the ninth and top of the 10th. Finally, in the top of the 12th, the Tritons went ahead 5-3 after a Larsen two-out double, a Brandon Shirley RBI single, and an Alex Eliopulos RBI single.
Finally, in the bottom of the 12th, STA was not to be denied. A lead-off walk and a one-out error put runners on the corners, and a wild pitch cut the lead to 5-4. After a walk to put two on, a pitching change, and another walk to load the bases, Nicholas Lucchese coaxed yet *another* walk to tie the game at five. After another pitching change, UCSD seemed to settle down, getting a strikeout of Anthony Shkrelja for out number two, but disciplined power hitter Dingcong came to the plate and worked *ANOTHER* walk to win the game for the Spartans, who scored three runs without a single hit in the frame. As a matter of fact, STA didn't have a single hit beyond the seventh inning.
Every run in the game was scored with two outs.
Lucchese was the only Spartan with multiple hits, going 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI, while Dingcong was 1-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI to go along with two walks.
Unfortunately for UCSD, an incredible performance by Larsen went without a victory. Larsen finished the game 4-for-6 with two runs, three RBI, two doubles and a home run. Shirley and Eliopulos each went 2-for-6 with an RBI.
The starting pitchers matched each other almost perfectly. UCSD's Troy Cruz pitched seven strong innings, allowing six hits, three runs, three walks and three strikeouts. STA's Frankie Moscatiello also threw seven innings, also allowed six hits, also allowed three runs, but walked only one and struck out five.
Colorado Mesa - 10
Quincy - 3
W: Tyler Day (6-2); L: Hunter Haynes (9-2)
Quincy is another team making its first appearance at the Division II finals, and they showed well for the first two-thirds of their debut.
We had a pitcher's duel going on for the first three innings of the game. In the top of the fourth, Colorado Mesa, who entered the finals with the highest team batting average and slugging percentage of the field, finally broke through. Kyle Serrano reached on an error to begin the inning and after two quick outs, Serrano stole second and then came in to score on an Andrew Contreras RBI single. Before Quincy could get out of the inning, Zach McLeod notched an RBI single of his own to make it 2-0.
QU responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the frame, with an RBI double from J.C. DeMuri scored All-American Jake Walters to cut the lead in half.
The Hawks actually took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring twice on a two-RBI double from Nolan Snyder that scored the aforementioned DeMuri and Walters to put QU up 3-2.
From there, however, it was all Mavericks. Quincy, however, played quite a hand. The Mavericks scored five times in the top of the seventh WITHOUT A SINGLE HIT. A walk, sacrifice bunt, and walk put runners on first and second. A stolen base put runners on the corners. Another sacrifice bunt tied the game at 3. A double steal put runners on second and third, and a wild pitch moved both runners up to make it a 4-3 CMU lead. After another walk, and a pitching change, a fielder's choice drove in another run to make it 5-3. Another walk, a wild pitch, another wild pitch, *another* wild pitch made it 7-3. Mercilessly, a strikeout finally ended the inning, although not without an error and yet another wild pitch, first.
CMU scored three more times in the top of the eighth inning, but at least this time they hit the ball. An RBI single from JJ Carr and back-to-back longballs by Serrano and Bligh Madris put the Mavericks up 10-3, and they never looked back.
Serrano led the CMU offense, going 1-for-3 with three runs scored, two RBI and a walk. Contreras was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI to go with a walk. Carr (3), Serrano (2) and Matt Haggerty (2) combined for seven stolen bases in the game. Kyle Leahy struck out seven and walked one in 5.1 innings of work with three hits allowed, but allowed three runs and did not factor in to the decision. Tyler Day picked up the victory with 3.2 innings of shutout relief with seven strikeouts.
Snyder (1-for-4, two RBI) led the Hawks offense, while DeMuri (2-for-3, one run, one RBI) was the only QU hitter with multiple hits. Graham Spraker had a good outing all for naught on the mound, as he threw six innings, allowing four hits, two unearned runs and two walks with six strikeouts. The Quincy pitching staff had six wild pitches in the game.
St. Thomas Aquinas and Colorado Mesa advance in the winner's bracket, while UCSD and Quincy will face off in an elimination game on Tuesday (May 30).
North Georgia (46-11, 19-5 PBC) vs Delta State (44-12, 25-8 GSC)
Monday, May 29th, 4:00 p.m. Eastern
I don't think we anticipated these two teams to be the ones facing off in the first elimination game of the national finals, but here we are.
We will anticipate a pitching match-up of UNG's Steven Bower (7-3, 2.14 ERA) or Dylan Peppers (8-3, 2.84 ERA) going up against DSU's Corey Beard (6-0, 4.35 ERA) or Tre Hobbs (8-4, 4.70 ERA).
We went over numbers the past two days, but we'll point out that Zack Shannon (.439, 62 R, 12 2B, 19 HR, 88 RBI) and Clay Casey (.341 avg, 58 R, 14 2B, 17 HR, 62 RBI) are still mashers for DSU, and UNG still has four guys who love hitting homers, including Connor Hoover (.365 avg, 74 R, 16 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 74 RBI) and Trevor Sams (.318 avg, 48 R, 12 2B, 12 HR, 69 RBI).
I'm guessing we'll have a fair amount of offense in this game.
West Chester (41-11, 22-6 PSAC) vs Lindenwood (40-18, 24-11 MIAA)
Monday, May 29th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
The two...somewhat surprising...teams facing off in the winner's bracket will do battle this evening.
West Chester should be rolling out either Mike Cipolla (8-2, 1.75 ERA) or Eric Close (5-3, 2.29 ERA), while Lindenwood should counter with Andrew Eilers (7-2, 4.71 ERA), Blake Beckmann (7-4, 5.03 ERA) or Kyle Hentis (6-1, 5.43 ERA). Obviously the pitching numbers heavily favor WCU, but we'll see if that means anything when they take the field this evening.
Watch out for WCU's Jared Melone, who seems to keep coming up with big hits every time they are needed. On the flip side, pay attention to Drew Quinones for the Lions, who went 4-for-4 in the first game of the tournament.