By Jim Dixon
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- Cal Lutheran had been in the championship game twice before and failed to win the title. But the third time around, there was no doubt as the Kingsmen won two on Tuesday, a 12-4 win followed by a 7-3 victory in a winner-take-all game to win the Championship Series two games to one, and claim Walnut and Bronze.
"This national championship is for all those guys who came before us and all those guys who bled purple and gold," said Cal Lutheran coach Marty Slimak. "If you were to ask me in February that these guys, this team would be sitting here, I would look at you and say your nuts. We had so many question marks but as the season progressed, these guys came together."
|Gabe Gunter had a two-run double in the third inning to start the scoring for the Kingsmen.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
"It stings," said Washington and Jefferson head coach Jeff Mountain about the loss. "You get to this point and we are cruising through as things were definitely going our way. We put ourselves in great position and today things did not work out. I give all the credit in the world to Cal Lu. They played all facets of the game phenomenally well. They took the fight to us."
Neither starting pitcher showed ill effects of pitching on short rest in the first two innings as the game settled in. Cal Lutheran starter, Scott Roberts allowed a runner in each of the first two innings. W&J starter Riley Groves was better, without a hit allowed in the same time frame.
"I have had to pitch on short rest in key spots," said Groves. "I gave it my all up there today. I felt sharper than I did in my first start on full rest."
Cal Lutheran changed the tone of the game with two runs in the third. Trey Saito singled to left and Austin Kay was called upon to sacrifice. Kay was unable to get the bunt down fair and with the sign to swing away, hit a bullet down the left field line. Two batters later Sinjin Todd's safety loaded the sacks. Gabe Gunter's drive to right field bounced off the wall as Saito and Kay crossed the plate.
W&J was able to get one back in the fourth. Derek Helbing doubled and Mark Merlino traded places with him to bring him home. But Robert recovered to get Ryan Sciullo to fly out, ending the threat.
The Kingsmen opened the fourth also with two base runners. Brad Fullerton doubled to left and Cheynne Giles followed with a base-on-balls. Cal Lutheran was unable to execute the sacrifice as Saito popped up in foul territory to the catcher. Kay followed with a single to center, however, and Fullerton just beat the throw home.
Gordon opened the fifth inning with a mammoth home run over the Pick 'n Save sign, dropping Cal Lutheran's lead to a single run.
"I tried not to get ahead of myself," said Gordon. "I knew we were still down and that this would give us some momentum. Kinda hoping that we would pile on at that point."
Both starters found their groove, shutting down the offenses following Gordon's home run. Roberts' day came to an end in the seventh when Slimak chose to open the frame with closer Miguel Salud, making his fourth appearance of the World Series. Ryan Sciullo and Kevin Begley both hit singles to put runners on the corners with two outs but Dante Dalesandro popped up to end the threat.
"We were thin on the mound, we have been all year," said Slimak. "These guys stepped up but Roberts was our guy. If we could get four or five innings out of him that would be great. We knew we were going to Miggy late or early. It worked out."
Cal Lutheran took advantage of two errors in the seventh to add a little insurance. Begley could not handle Kay's grounder. Weinstein followed with a drive to right that eluded the fielder's glove for a single. Groves' pick off attempt sailed into center, moving both runners up 90 feet. Following an intentional walk to Gunter, Jauregui's sacrifice fly made the score 4-2.
What was a tense game up to the ninth evaporated, as Cal Lutheran made a final statement to the season with three runs in the ninth, batting around. W&J scored once in the ninth.
"Of course we have good athletes on out team but not extremely amazing athletes," said Fullerton. "Collectively we play great as a team. We are out here with out buddies and have fun and play ball. It worked in our favor."
Cal Lutheran finishes 40-11, its first 40 win season since 1992. The Presidents end their season 42-13.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com