TOURNAMENT GAME STORIES
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Linfield 4, UW-Stevens Point 2
Linfield is making back-to-back trips to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships for the first time in program history after dispatching the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 4-2 Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the McMinnville Regional tournament, played at Roy Helser Field.
The Wildcats (37-7) went undefeated in four games, twice getting by the Pointers (32-13) to earn a return trip to Appleton, Wis., to defend their national championship.
Making the biggest start of his career, Justin Davis got Linfield out to a great start, carrying a 3-2 lead into the sixth and handing off to two relievers before Linfield called upon ace Chris Haddeland to close out the game.
Corey VanDomelen snapped a 2-2 tie in the seventh with a just-fair double inside the left-field stripe, and Jo Carroll plated the insurance run in the eighth with a two-bagger down the right-field line.
Joseph Stevick earned the win, his first of the year, as the pitcher of record when the Wildcats took the lead. Haddeland registered his third career save, all achieved in the postseason.
Bobby Gregorich hit 2-for-4 with one run scored and Max Frederick suffered the loss for the Pointers, who were denied their own return trip to the NCAA Finals.
Game 9: UW-Stevens Point 9, Cal Lutheran 7, 12 inn. (Cal Lutheran eliminated)
In a tournament in which six of nine games had been decided by one run, it was only fitting the winner-to-championship, loser-out game between UW-Stevens Point and Cal Lutheran went extra innings.
The Pointers rallied from a 4-1 deficit after three and got an eighth-inning, game-tying RBI double from Kyle McHugh to extend the game before Jimmy Coady drove in the game-winning run in the top of the 12th frame. UWSP bounced back from its first tournament loss to earn a rematch with Linfield in the regional championship.
Pitching 2/3 of an inning, Cam Seidl earned the win in a contest that featured 10 pitchers, including six alone for the Pointers. Casey Barnes and Taylor Carlson tallied three hits apiece for UW-Stevens Point. Cal Lutheran All-American Jake Peterson, who supplied the game-winning RBI in an earlier elimination game, finished 3-for-6 with two RBIs.
Playing to a 1-1 tie after one, Cal Lutheran and UW-Stevens Point posted three-spots in the third and fourth, respectively, to knot the score 4-4 in an entertaining cat-and-mouse battle.
Cal Lutheran designated hitter Nico Filice’s two-out, two RBI triple to right center put the Kingsmen up by a pair of runs in the sixth, but Bobby Gregorich supplied a sacrifice fly in the eighth and McHugh blew up Kingsmen reliever Aaron Roth’s bid for a 14th save with a game-tying RBI double in the ninth to force extra.
Both clubs scored in the 11th – UWSP on Barnes’ RBI double and CLU on Gabe Gunter’s two-bagger down the right-field line – to tie the game at 7-7. After inching ahead, the Kingsmen twice loaded the bases in the 11th but a groundout turned the scorecard over for the decisive 12th inning.
Game 8: Cal Lutheran 2, LeTourneau 1
All-American Jake Peterson pushed across the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Scott Peters surrendered just one run across eighth innings and Aaron Roth earned a Kingsmen single-season record 13th save to extend Cal Lutheran’s season in an elimination game for both teams.
Ramsey Abushahla got the Kingsmen started in the second with a bunt single and advanced to the far bag on consecutive walks drawn by Kyle Sanchez and Nick Cohan. Abushahla scored when the YellowJackets made the force out at second, and after hitting Austin Kay to load the bases, LeTourneau starter Justin Jenkins set up Justin Cana for a groundout to avoid any further damage.
Kay and Spencer DuBois sparked Cal Lutheran with back-to-back leadoff singles in the bottom half of the fifth. A fielder’s choice advanced both runners, and Peterson sent a fly ball to center to plate Kayand give the Kingsmen a 2-0 edge.
Dillon Yates launched a ball over the left-center fence to make it a 2-1 game in the top of the seventh. Staging a late-game rally, LeTourneau put the tying run aboard in the ninth when Garrett Methvin singled to center. Two strikeouts put Cal Lutheran one out away from advancing to another elimination game, but David Perkins registered another base hit before he and Argabright – pinch running for Methvin – each moved one base closer to home on a passed ball. Aaron Roth, pitching in his third game of the tournament, coaxed Chris Bertram into a groundout to end the YellowJackets’ season.
Game 7: Linfield 3, UW-Stevens Point 2
After Nick Fisher and Jo Carroll served up solo homers to give Linfield an early lead, Kyle McHugh seemingly responded with one of his own tie the game at 3-3 in the eighth. However, he was called out on an appeal for not touching first base, sending Linfield through to the championship game in an intense and controversial matchup between the tournament’s undefeated teams.
Zach Brandon took the win for Linfield, improving to 8-1, while Zach Manley registered the save.
The Wildcats led throughout, but never by a comfortable margin. After Fisher and Carroll plated one run each in the first and second, the Pointers halved the deficit in the third when Casey Barnes scored on a Riley Spetz single to left.
With two outs in the fourth, Eric Lawson sent a line drive down the first-base line that first baseman Cody Hanke got a glove on but couldn’t completely catch. Lawson advanced to third when Kenny Johnson punched a ball up the middle – nearly taking out the pitcher, umpire and second baseman – and scored on Scott Hilpert’s base hit to left to put Linfield back ahead 3-1.
A sacrifice fly from Barnes pulled UW-Stevens Point back within one in the seventh. Then in the eighth, McHugh pulled one to left but after crossing home, Linfield called for an appeal, and the first-base umpire ruled the designated hitter did not touch the bag, erasing the tying run from the scoreboard.
UW-Stevens Point Nick Prebelski shut down the Wildcats in order, and though Hanke reached when a grounder got past Truex into the outfield, Lawson handled a routine groundout at third to seal the deal for the top seed.
Game 6: UW-Stevens Point 5, Cal Lutheran 2
Scoring three unanswered runs and pulling away again with a two-spot in the bottom of the eighth, the Pointers came out on top of the Kingsmen in the day’s only battle of unbeatens and highest scoring game of the tournament thus far.
Cal Lutheran took an early 1-0 lead after one half inning and pulled to within 3-2 in the eighth, but JP Feyereisen recorded the final four outs to earn his second save of the tournament and keep UW-Stevens Point on the winner’s side of the bracket.
Pointers RBIs leader Kyle McHugh plated the insurance run on a fielder’s choice and leadoff man Riley Spetz went 3-for-4 to pace the UWSP offense.
Using a combination of small ball and power hitting, the Kingsmen earned the early advantage. Justin Cana led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Nicho DellaValle. Ramsey Abushahla sent a two-out double to right center, plating Cana for the first score of the day. Abushahla advanced to third on a passed ball, but a fly out prevented the Kingsmen from opening up a bigger advantage.
Back-to-back-to-back singles from Spetz, Jimmy Coady and McHugh knotted the score in the bottom half of the opening frame. Brandon Kranz earned the RBI when he reached on a fielder’s choice.
Beginning in the bottom half of the third, starters Tyler Hebda (CLU) Luke Watson (UWSP) kept both lineups hitless until Casey Barnes sparked the Pointers in the fifth. After singling to center field, the UW-Stevens Point catcher moved to second on a Harry Steldt sacrifice and Spetz single. Coady’s groundout pushed Barnes across, and the Pointers owned a 3-1 lead.
With Pointers reliever Nick Prebelski on the mound to start the eighth, Jake Peterson singled, Abushahla reached on an error and Peterson scored on Collin Crowl’s fielder’s choice to pull the Kingsmen within one run, 3-2.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Spetz led off with a single, advancing to second on a Coady sacrifice before stealing third. The Pointers shortstop scored on a fielder’s choice, and UW-Stevens Point tacked on another run when Ben Gerber – pinch running for McHugh – broke for home on Bobby Gregorich’s steal at second and slid to beat the tag.
Kyle Sanchez opened Cal Lutheran’s final offensive inning with a single to right center, but the Pointers recorded three straight outs to avoid any late-inning drama.
Game 5: Linfield 4, Trinity 1 (Trinity eliminated)
Clayton Truex spotted the Wildcats a 2-0 lead with a two-RBI single through the left side and Nick Fisher added an insurance home run in the seventh as Linfield kept trucking through the winner’s side of the bracket.
Connor Moore’s sacrifice plated the lone run for the Tigers, who were knocked out of the playoffs by Linfield for the second straight season.
The Wildcats drove Trinity lefty starter Michael Walker from the game early. In immediate succession, Scott Hilpert, Corey VanDomelen and Fisher walked to load the bases. After gaining new life when Trinity second baseman Carter McEachern dropped a foul pop up along the first-base line, Truex drilled a single through the left side to score two Wildcats.
Linfield pushed its advantage to 3-0 when Kramer Lindell dropped a bloop single into shallow center to plate Fisher and prompt a pitching change as the Tigers turned to Matt Tindall for the final out.
With Aaron Thomassen (6.2 IP, 7 K) on the hill, the Wildcat defense yielded just two hits the entire afternoon. In the seventh, Jeremy Wolf drew a one-out walk and advanced on Julian Cronk’s base hit to center. Moore laid down a bunt along the first-base line, plating Wolf and sending Thomassen to the dugout.
Cody Walker threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Game 4: LeTourneau 3, Illinois Wesleyan 2 (IWU eliminated)
Ryan Garza plated two runners on a squeeze to extend the YellowJackets’ first playoff run at least an extra day.
Facing a 2-1 deficit, Dillon Yates and David Perkins opened the eighth with back-to-back singles, and pinch runners Jordan Argabright and Cody Whitley advanced one base each on a failed pickoff attempt at second. With two outs, Garza laid down a bunt to easily score Argabright, and Whitley touched the plate for the go-ahead run when first IWU first baseman Nick Hahn hit the turf after making the out and could not get up in time to make the throw home.
The Titans got out to a hot start, scoring twice in the first frame. Tim Coonan lead off with a single up the middle, and Jon Frericks ripped a triple down the left-field line to put Illinois Wesleyan ahead 1-0. Czarnowski followed up with a single to center, scoring Frericks and doubling the Titan advantage.
IWU starter John Munyon held LeTourneau off the board until the sixth, when Garza supplied an RBI single to score Caleb Pritchett, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
After LeTourneau took the lead, the Titans had one more opportunity to avoid elimination and put two runners on when Coonan reached on a fielder’s choice and Frericks singled through the right side. Curt Copeland – who earned the win after throwing 8 2/3 innings – handed off to Jordan Price, who struck out Czarnowski to get the save and send Illinois Wesleyan home.
Game 3: Trinity (Texas) vs. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Cody Hanke supplied the game-winning RBI double in the seventh and JP Feyereisen registered the save to lead the Pointers to a 3-2 victory in the highest scoring game of the first day.
After wearing a pitch for a free bag, Bobby Gregorich was sacrificed to second by Carlson. Hanke doubled to left center, scoring Gregorich for the UWSP lead. The damage could have been worse had Tigers reliever Nicholas Griffth not worked out of a bases-loaded jam by coaxing Jimmy Coady into a groundout that he picked up and tossed to first himself for the final out.
The Tigers put a runner on in the ninth, but fouled out a sacrifice attempt, flew out to right and grounded out on a fielder’s choice to spoil the comeback bid. Christian Muscarello went 3-for-4 to lead Trinity at the plate.
A balk pushed the first run across in the bottom of the third. Muscarello sent a two-out double to right center before advancing to third on a fielding error during the next at-bat and scoring on the balk.
UW-Stevens Point pulled even and then some in the top of the fifth. Taylor Carlson worked his way around the bases on a walk, passed ball and stolen base and scored when Hanke reached on an error at third. A Casey Barnes single to center plated Hanke, and the Pointers brought a 2-1 advantage into the bottom of the sixth.
The slim lead was short lived, however. Chris Bianchi led off with a double down the left-field line and was sacrificed to third by Connor Moore. Austin Singer’s sacrifice fly brought Bianchi home and the score was once again even, this time at 2-2.
Trinity put a runner in scoring position when Jeremy Wolf’s fly ball to left center was dropped, but UWSP starter Cam Seidl struck out Julian Cronk to spoil the momentum-stealing opportunity. Seidl, who got the win with a five-strikeout outing, and Feyereisen allowed just two baserunners over the final three innings.
Game 2: Cal Lutheran 2, Illinois Wesleyan 1
A pitcher’s duel between IWU starter Jeff Johnson and CLU All-American Jake Peterson got interesting in the final innings as the Kingsmen pulled away from a 1-1 tie in the eighth en route to the 2-1 victory.
The Titans snatched the early lead when Adam Glogovsky doubled down the left-field line, advanced to third on a Jarrod Juskiewicz groundout and scored on Pat Mollo’s sacrifice fly. Illinois Wesleyan put two more runners on via a walk and Derek Idstein single, but a lineout ended the threat.
Benefitting from some shaky defense, Cal Lutheran responded in its half of the seventh. Kyle Sanchez reached on a two-out error, advancing Gabe Gunter – who got on via fielder’s choice – to third. Spencer DuBois followed up with a single to left that knotted the game at 1-1.
After Peterson registered a 1-2-3 eighth frame, the Kingsmen took its first lead of the game, and kept it. Working with runners on the corners and no outs, Cal Lutheran tried to lay down the squeeze but failed to execute, resulting in a tag out between third and home. Ramsey Abushahla made up for it on the next pitch, however, when he sent a ball down the left-field line to score Peterson from second.
CLU’s Aaron Roth surrendered a single to Juskiewicz, but was otherwise unflappable in registering the first save of the tournament.
Game 1: Linfield-LeTourneau
Linfield starter Chris Haddeland’s seventh complete game of the season – this one a four-hitter – carried top-seeded Linfield to a 1-0 over LeTourneau in a quick opening game of the McMinnville Regional.
Wildcat outfielder Kramer Lindell singlehandedly supplied the lone run over the afternoon with a solo shot over the left-center fence in the bottom of the fourth. Fellow outfielders Nick Fisher and Jo Carroll tallied two more hits for the defending national champions.
The YellowJackets, making their first ever NCAA playoff appearance, got eight solid innings from Cody Whitley, who yielded just six hits while totaling a pair of strikeouts against zero walks. LeTourneau twice put a runner in scoring position, including in the sixth when Caleb Pritchett singled and advanced to third on consecutive groundouts from Ryan Garza and Bryce Griffin, but could not capitalize on the opportunity.