Abilene Regional Website
ABILENE, Texas – Gunnar Cederberg could not have picked a better time to hit his first career home run. His two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning provided the insurance Linfield needed to get the final three outs of the game and defeat Trinity 9-6 in a third-round elimination game at the NCAA Abilene Regional Friday at Walt Driggers Field.
The Wildcats (33-10) ended the Tigers' (34-13) postseason run, setting up a Saturday 10 a.m. PDT showdown against the Chapman Panthers, whom the ‘Cats will face regardless of whether Chapman wins or loses Friday’s night game against Concordia (Texas).
Just as they did the previous day, the Wildcats took an early lead, scoring twice in the top of the first.
Tim Wilson hit an RBI single to score Eric Evenson from second, and made his way to third thanks to a couple of miscues by Trinity starting pitcher Michael Bentz. First, Wilson earned two bases on a failed pickoff attempt that sailed over first baseman Jonathan Hall. Bentz was then called for a balk, allowing Wilson to advance one more base and score.
Linfield starter Zach Brandon (Sr., Cottage Grove, Ore.) got off to a bit of a shaky start in his first playoff appearance, walking the first batter he faced, but soon settled in. He pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up three hits leading to three earned runs, before being relieved by Spencer Crepeaux.
One of those runs came in the bottom of the second, when back-to-back doubles by Kevin Francke and Nicholas Iacovella got the Tigers on the board. Later, in the fourth, Iocovella and Dylan Early each hit an RBI single to put Trinity ahead 3-2.
Having lost the advantage, the ‘Cats needed to produce some big hits to recapture the lead. Cue Clayton Truex (Sr., Kirkland, Wash.), who hit a 365-foot solo homer over the center left field fence to tie up the ballgame in the bottom of the fifth frame.
His home run opened the floodgates, as Linfield would score four more times before the inning was over. With runners on the corners, Cederberg hit a triple to score both Kevin Coleman and Kevin Allan. The senior right fielder reached home on the next play with an RBI single by Evenson.
Later in the fifth, Wilson unintentionally scored one of his teammates as he was picked off while trying to steal second. In the midst of the rundown, Evenson was able to sneak home from third to put the ‘Cats up 7-3.
Even facing a four-run hole, the Tigers refused to go away quietly. Over the next three innings, Trinity scored three times, including a solo homer by Kyle Felix, to cut the lead to a single run.
With the game on the line, the Wildcat coaching staff called upon pitching ace Ryan Larson. He got into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the eighth, but he and the Linfield defense got out of a bases-loaded jam on a fly-out to end the inning.
In their final at-bat, the Wildcats hoped for one more run to cushion their slim lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Cederberg doubled their wish, hitting a two-run homer to give Linfield a 9-6 lead that would stay until the final out was recorded.
Cederberg finished the day hitting 2-for-4 with four RBI. Evenson went 4-for-5 with one RBI, Wilson was 2-for-4 with one RBI and Coleman hit 2-for-4.
Defensively, Larson tallied three strikeouts and gave up only three hits over the final 2 2/3 innings to earn the save.
The Tigers were led by Iacovalla, who hit 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI, and Felix, who went 3-for-5 with one RBI.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield needs to win twice Saturday to advance the NCAA Finals...the 'Cats are 3-1 against Chapman this season...this was the first-ever meeting between the Wildcats and Tigers in baseball…Cederberg hit his first career triple and home run in the same game…the 'Cats had not hit a home run in the regional playoffs prior to today's game...Larson’s save was a career-first…Wilson entered the game leading the regional field in batting average, hitting 6-for-8 for a .750 average…the Tigers played five different pitchers, including three in the ninth inning…one of the pitchers was Co-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Pitcher of the year Ben Klimesh…today’s temperature was a cool 85 degrees after a thunderstorm rolled through the area during the night.
Hits 2-for-4 in win
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