Abilene Regional Website
ABILENE, Texas – Revenge is a bitter pill to swallow. The Linfield baseball team learned that the hard way as Chapman avenged three mid-season loses and won when it really counted, eliminating the Wildcats from the postseason in the final game of the NCAA Abilene Regional by a score of 8-7.
As regional champions, the Panthers (33-11) have earned the right to compete in the NCAA Division III Finals, beginning Friday in Appleton, Wis. The Wildcats conclude their season with a 33-11 record.
Appropriately for a title game, the game featured two ties and five lead changes. But the Panthers had the last laugh, scoring twice in the top of the ninth inning to take a one-run lead heading into the final at-bat for Linfield.
Needing just three more outs to advance to the national championship, Chapman looked to All-Independent Pitcher of the Year Brian Rauh to wrap up the game. He delivered, striking out the first two batters he faced and setting up a groundout to shortstop Troy Newman for the final out.
For the third consecutive game, the ‘Cats got on the board first, this time on a passed ball by the Panther catcher. Eric Evenson, who had hit a double and then advanced to third on a bunt by Dustin Smith, reached home on the play.
Linfield and Chapman traded runs over the next several innings, but the Wildcats stayed in front until the top of the fifth. An RBI single by Chapman first baseman Mark Saatzer tied the game at 3-3. Two plays later, Saatzer reached home as the Linfield shortstop mishandled a ball hit by senior catcher Adam Kordich.
The ‘Cats stole the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Smith hit an RBI double to left field to score Kevin Coleman, and later, Nate McClellan (Sr., Shoreline, Wash.) was walked with the bases loaded.
The score remained 5-4 in Linfield’s favor until the top of the seventh, when the Panthers got an RBI single from Kordich and an RBI double from right fielder Charlie Piro.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Wildcats regained the lead once more with RBI singles from Smith and Tim Wilson. But unfortunately for Linfield, the scoring advantage was short-lived.
Chapman tied the game at 7-7 on an RBI double from left fielder Jamie Parr. He would score the winning run two plays later as Tyler Surnbrock’s single eluded Linfield’s left fielder.
Starter Zach Manley (Sr., Coburg, Ore.) and reliever Evan Hilberg each supplied a couple of gutsy performances on the mound for the ‘Cats. Manley went 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs (four earned), while Hilberg tallied three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
Chapman’s Kyle Tachibana earned the win, pitching 1 2/3 innings of relief. The Panthers were led on offense by Kordich, who hit 2-for-3 with two RBI.
For Linfield, Smith hit 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Evenson went 2-for-4 with three runs scored, Wilson was 2-for-3 with one RBI and McClellan hit 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Evenson, Coleman and Wilson were named to the all-tournament team…Chapman’s Kordich was the tournament MVP…Wilson led the field in batting average, hitting 10-for-15 (.667)…this was the final game for six Wildcat seniors: Evenson, Hilberg, Coleman, Smith, Gunnar Cederberg and Cole Bixenman…Ryan Larson had the most strikeouts of the regional tournament with 10 in two appearanes on the mound…Linfield is now 4-8 all-time against Chapman, including 3-2 this season…the Wildcats went 0-2 as the designated home team and 2-0 as the designated visiting team during the regional playoffs…Linfield's 33 wins are tied for third-most in program history, matching the 2005 team that finished 33-9...temperature during the game reached the mid-90s.
Senior makes all-tournament team
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