Linfield Wildcats

May 23, 2014
Tommies capitalize on defensive miscues
Box Score
Postgame Press Conference
APPLETON, Wis. – Linfield faces an uphill battle back to the national championship game after dropping its NCAA Division III Baseball Finals opener 10-0 to St. Thomas of Minnesota on a stunning Friday morning at the Neurosciences Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.
The defending national champion Wildcats fall into the loser's bracket, and face the loser of Friday's second game, Emory (Ga.), Saturday at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time.

"It's certainly not the way we scripted this thing out," said head coach Scott Brosius. "The truth is, it's a double-elimination tournament. It takes two. We're still here and we're still playing. I think one of the things about this team all year long is they've been resilient. It's a tough group of guys, a competitive group of guys. Nobody is going to roll over. We're going to come out tomorrow and we're going to play real hard."
Benefitting from some uncharacteristically shaky Wildcat defense, the Tommies (38-7) scored five times in the first off two hits, three errors and three walks to put the Wildcats (37-8) on their heels early.
Lefty starter Eric Veglahn carried a perfect game into the eighth, retiring 21 straight and tallying a season-high 12 strikeouts to improve to 9-0 on the season and 13-0 for his career.

"They did everything we didn't do today," Brosius said. "They pitched it extremely well. Their starter was really good today. He spotted, kept us off balance and we were defensive at the plate."

Working through its entire lineup against relievers Joseph Stevick and Cody Erautt, St. Thomas doubled its lead in the sixth via six hits.
Jake Wylie and Eric Lawson supplied the only hits against a stingy Tommy defense, planting outfield singles in the eighth and ninth. Corey VanDomelen drew a two-out walk to push Lawson to second and give Linfield a pair of baserunners in the eighth, but Veglahn set up a fly ball into right for the final out that preserved the shutout.
Linfield ace Chris Haddeland got out to a rough start, and despite settling in through the middle innings, ran his pitch count too high and was pulled in the fifth after registering five strikeouts against a career-high six walks. The junior right-hander took the loss, just his second of the year.

"I definitely didn't have my stuff today and I tried to work through it, Haddeland said. "I felt great in warm-ups but I just couldn't piece it together today."

St. Thomas catcher J.D. Dorgan drove in a game-high three RBIs off a pair of hits, while left fielder Tim Kuzniar plated two more runners on a sacrifice fly and bases-loaded walk.

Giving the Tommies a baserunner right off the bat, center fielder Ben Podobinski drew a leadoff walk, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. He then scored when Jack Hogan spliced a grounder past Linfield first baseman Clayton Truex and down the right-field line. Tim Kuzniar's sacrifice fly plated Waylon Bemboom, and St. Thomas took an early 2-0 lead with zero outs recorded. J.D. Dorgan and Kelvin Stroik delivered consecutive RBI singles up the middle and to shallow center to spot the Tommies a 4-0 advantage, and another fielding error scored Stroik and pushed the spread to 5-0.

Haddeland finally got out of the inning with consecutive strikeouts against Sam Miller and Podobinski, the latter in his second at-bat of the first. The ABCA Pitcher of the Year yielded more baserunners in the second and third on a hit batter, walk and single to left center, but settled in a bit more by the fourth, dealing a leadoff three-pitch strikeout to Bemboom.

Linfield's offense could not provide any support, however, as Veglahn continued to roll. By the bottom of the fifth, the St. Thomas starter had rang up six strikeouts and showed no signs of letting up.

Stevick replaced Haddeland to start the sixth, and surrendered consecutive singles to Miller and Podobinski before striking out Benboom. Hogan singled through the left side to load the bases, and a Kuzniar walk scored Miller. Dorgan pushed two more runners across with a base hit to left center, and the Tommies sensed an opportunity to build an insurmountable lead. Stroik singled to left field, and Brady Johnson drilled another base hit to center field, scoring Kuzniar.

With Erautt on the mound, Linfield made the force at home for the second out of the game, but Stroik crossed home on a passed ball as St. Thomas' scoring margin swelled to 10 runs. Finally, Erautt struck out Miller to end another long inning for the Wildcat defense.

Podobinski led off the seventh with a double just outside the diving reach of Jo Carroll along the left-field line, but the Tommies were otherwise silenced for the rest of the game.

Wylie broke through for the 'Cats in the eighth with a single to left field that broke up the bid for a perfect game, drawing a standing ovation for Veglahn from both sides of the stadium, but the St. Thomas defense recorded two fly outs and a strikeout to keep Linfield scoreless.

In the ninth, Lawson setlled a pop fly just behind second baseman Miller, and VanDomelen drew a two-out walk to give Linfield its first runner in scoring position. Nick Fisher flew out to right, however, sending the Tommies through on the winner's side of the championship bracket.

'CAT SCRATCH: The Wildcats were shut out for just the third time all season...Linfield's two hits were a season low...Linfield fell to 3-1 in opening games at the NCAA Finals...Lawson registered his first career hit at the NCAA finals...Erautt tallied four strikeouts in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, his longest outing of the season... Ben Andrews (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) and Chance Laboda made their first career appearances at the NCAA Finals as defensive substitutions in the ninth...official game time was 2 hours, 17 minutes...attendance was listed at 1,231.

OTHER TOURNAMENT ACTION: Joe Hiller supplied the game-winning RBI single in the eighth as Baldwin Wallace, making its first NCAA Finals appearance, rallied with three runs over the final three frames to edge Emory 5-4....SUNY-Cortland held off a late comeback bid and snapped Salisbury's 20-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory...every starter registered a hit and Scott Plaza retired 16 of the last 18 batters faced as UW-Whitewater soundly defeated Southern Maine 8-1 in the nightcap.
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Chris Haddeland
Season-high 6 walks, 5 runs