Thursday, June 1, 2017

Day Five Recap, Day Six Preview of 2017 Finals

Day five is in the books, and we down to the final four teams vying for the national championship. The favorites to begin the week are out, and we have a wide-open field left. Is it just a coincidence that of the four teams remaining, they were four of the five best team ERA's entering the tournament? Is there a theme there? Pitching was down around Division II this season, but are the talented staffs showing up when needed?

First, our day five recap of the 2017 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals.

Game Nine **Elimination Game**
UC San Diego - 11
Lindenwood - 6
Box Score/Recap
W: Jack Rupe (5-2); L: Kyle Hentis (6-2)

As nail-biting and thrilling as UCSD's thriller on Tuesday was, Wednesday was at least a little less stressful for the Tritons. Nonetheless, they got yet another huge game when they needed it, and staved off elimination yet again with a victory over Lindenwood.

It didn't take long for the Tritons to get their march started, as the top of the order absolutely tore up Lindenwood pitching on this day.

Usual suspect Jack Larsen was at it again, leading off the game with a single and then advancing to second on a wild pitch. Brandon Shirley followed with an RBI triple to score him, and Tyler Durna followed with an RBI single to score Shirley. After another single put runners on the corners, J.D. Hearn drove in another run with an RBI ground out, and after a half inning of play, UCSD was already up 3-0.

The Tritons kept the momentum going in the second inning, again with the top of the order doing some damage. Michael Palos coaxed a lead-off walk this time, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a wild pitch, and that meant it was time for Larsen to come back to the plate, and he delivered an RBI single to push the lead to 4-0. After a Shirley single, Durna followed with yet another RBI hit, scoring Larsen to make it 5-0.

Lindenwood started staging its comeback in the bottom of the second. After two outs on the first two batters, the Lions put together a two-out rally, getting a pair of singles to put two on, and then a two-RBI double by Sam Baxter to cut the lead to 5-2.

Just like UCSD, the Lions kept their momentum over two innings, putting up another pair of runs in the bottom of the third to inch even closer. A lead-off single, sacrifice bunt, walk, and error scored one run, before Kyle Teter lifted a sacrifice fly to score another and make it a 5-4 game.

The scoring would cease for at least a little bit in the middle portion of the game. It wasn't until the UCSD top of the sixth inning where things got started yet again, and in a big way. The Tritons brought 10 men to the plate, scoring five times on four hits to put the game comfortably in their hands. A one-out walk began the rally, followed by a single, and then a Larsen RBI single to bring the first run in. Shirley followed with a hit-by-pitch to load the bases, setting up Durna for another RBI opportunity which he took advantage of, lacing a two-RBI single to push the score out to 8-4. Alex Eliopulos followed with a two-RBI double to make it a 10-4 game as Durna and Shirley both came across to score.

UCSD would add an insurance run in the top of the ninth on a wild pitch, while a Drew Quinones two-RBI triple in the bottom of the ninth would cut the lead to 11-6, but no closer, as the first pitch to the next batter ended the inning and game, as well as the tournament for Lindenwood.

The top four in UCSD's lineup combined to go 12-for-19 with seven runs scored, nine RBI and two walks with no strikeouts. A dominating performance, to say the least. Jack Rupe earned the victory on the mound with a gutsy seven innings, allowing 10 hits and two earned runs with one walk and one strikeout.

Wes Degener went 4-for-5 with a run scored, while Paul Sherwood went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Quinones and Baxter each tallied a hit and two RBI in the contest.

Lindenwood ends it season at 40-20 overall. UCSD advances to get a rematch with St. Thomas Aquinas in the national semifinals on Thursday (June 1).

Game Ten **Elimination Game**
Colorado Mesa - 6
Delta State - 2
Box Score/Recap
W: Chris Ramirez (10-1); L: Peyton White (4-2)

The tournament favorite at the start of the week are eliminated, leaving us wide open for the final four teams going in to the weekend.

Last time Chris Ramirez toed the rubber, he threw a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts and four hits allowed against top seeded Angelo State in the South Central tournament. Well, he was up to his old tricks again against the top team in the country in an elimination game.

Only two hits were allowed total in the first two innings of play, one by each team, but CMU broke through in the top of the third inning. With two outs, Matt Haggerty singled, followed by a PJ Gonzalez single, and then JJ Carr delivered the RBI double to plate Haggerty and put CMU up 1-0.

That score held all the way to the seventh inning, where it was CMU putting some more numbers on the scoreboard. It began with a Lane LaCrone lead-off double, and he came in to score on a Zach McLeod RBI single to push the lead to 2-0. It reached 3-0 two batters later with a PJ Gonzalez RBI single to plate McLeod.

The Statesmen got on the board in the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer by Josh Russell to cut the lead to 3-1, but CMU got the insurance they needed in the top of the eight, when Kevan Elcock hit only his second home run of the year, a three-run bomb to left field, to break the game open to 6-1.

DSU put up a fight in the bottom of the ninth as they were not ready to go home too easily. Brian Lane and Zack Shannon singled to begin the inning, and after a strikeout, Juwan Burney brought Lane in with an RBI single. With two on and one out, however, CMU's Ramirez buckled down and got a strikeout and fly out to end the game and finish his complete game victory for the second straight start.

Six different Mavericks had multiple hits, led by Kyle Serrano and Matt Haggerty's 3-hit games with a run scored each. Elcock went 2-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI off his homer, while Gonzalez and Carr each went 2-for-4 with one RBI and a walk. Ramirez's final line was 9.0 innings, eight hits allowed, two runs allowed, two walks allowed, seven strikeouts, and his biggest win of the season.

DSU's Jason Popovich was the only Statesman to record multiple hits, going 3-for-4. Burney and Russell each went 1-for-4 with an RBI, with Russell's coming off his solo homer.

Delta State ends the season with a record of 45-13, while Colorado Mesa moves on to face West Chester in the national semifinals.

UC San Diego (42-18, 24-13 CCAA) vs St. Thomas Aquinas (44-15, 20-5 ECC)
**Elimination Game for UCSD**
Thursday, June 1st, 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Live Stats
Live Video

It should be an interesting decision for both teams to figure out who to put on the mound for this game. UCSD could put Troy Cruz (8-2, 4.08 ERA) on 3-days rest, but I would anticipate Kyle Goodbrand (5-0, 2.64 ERA) to get the nod instead, despite pitching in relief just a couple days ago.

For STA, they are kind of in the same situation. They may put Anthony Morris (10-1, 3.42 ERA) on the mound despite pitching in relief earlier this finals tournament, or they may go with Anthony Shkrelja (4-1, 2.43 ERA), who had seven starts this year. Or, being that it is not a must-win for them, they may go with John Bednarek (4-2, 5.40 ERA), who had the weakest numbers of the STA starters, but has been a part of the semi-regular rotation.

Colorado Mesa (50-11, 32-4 RMAC) vs West Chester (42-11, 22-6 PSAC)
**Elimination Game for Colorado Mesa**
Thursday, June 1st, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Live Stats
Live Video

Just like the game above, it will be a couple interesting decisions on the line, particularly for Colorado Mesa. With Leahy, McDermott and Ramirez off the table, that leaves Tyler Day (6-2, 2.38 ERA) as a starter this year who has already pitched in relief in this finals tournament, Jake Mielock (3-2, 2.73 ERA) who has also pitched in relief in this finals tournament, or AJ Landis (2-1, 5.51 ERA), who has also pitched in relief in this finals tournament. I anticipate if it will be any of them, it will be Landis, as he only threw five pitches in his relief appearance.

For West Chester, having only played two games so far, They have a couple choices yet. They should be rolling out one of Eric Close (5-3, 2.29 ERA) or Andrew Gernert (5-0, 5.43 ERA). I anticipate it might be Gernert since it is not a must-win for the Golden Rams, but they may just decide that getting to the national championship series in only one game is more important, and go with Close, trying not to risk the if-necessary game on Friday.

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