John Carroll makes playoffs with OAC crown

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John Carroll advances to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1984.
John Carroll athletics photo

It has been 30 years since the John Carroll University baseball team has made the NCAA Tournament. John Carroll had also never won an OAC title. John Carroll had the title in its grasp in the first game. Baldwin Wallace came back. Junior Mark Huddle and freshman Mark Materise made sure that would not happen in the second game.
Down to the winner-take-all game Huddle put JCU in front with a 2-run, 2-out double in the fourth inning of the second game while Materise pitched into the sixth inning giving JCU a much-needed performance with arms at a premium for both teams.
"Each day we talked about a certain thing that was going to help us win," said head coach Marc Thibeault. "Today that was maturity. We talked about how far we've come. We went 4-5 down in Florida. The thing that's helped us get to this point is we've matured as a baseball team and as individuals. Maturity was going to be one of the things I think that was going to be an underlying factor that would help us."
With the 6-3 win in the second game John Carroll advances to its first NCAA Tournament since 1984.
"This is about the kids," said Thibeault. "The kids earned it and battled for everything. They created their opportunities and had the midset and focus.
"It is (also) a very special feeling because I've worn number five (at JCU) since I was 18-years-old. To be able to do it at my alma mater is such an extrodinary feeling. This group is very special and past groups were very special. To make it on the 30th anniversary of the 1984 team is icing on the cake. "It's an honor to be in the program as a player and as a coach and to be able to be one of the pieces that helped accomplish this goal."
Game One
John Carroll was two outs away advancing to its first NCAA Tournament since 1984. Senior Kevin Rosinski forced the Baldwin Wallace groundout but John Carroll was unable to get the double play.
Given new life after the 2 hour and 25 minute rain delay, the Yellow Jackets seized the opportunity. Pinch hitter Cole Nieto drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the score. Alex Green rocketed his third RBI base hit of the game to put BW up 11-9, the final score by which Baldwin Wallace would win by.
Entering the ninth inning the Blue Streaks quickly recorded the first out. Racing against the weather the Yellow Jackets' next two batters reached base sending the tarp onto the field in Don Schaly Stadium.
John Carroll took the 9-7 lead when Tyler Gentile rocked his second 3-run homer of the OAC Tournament over the left field fence in the seventh inning.
The third baseman was named the MVP of the OAC Tournament finishing 9-for-18 with two homers and nine RBIs.

"I saw the ball and got my hands through it on the swing," said Gentile. "We stepped up in the second game after dropping the first game. We showed a lot of heart today."
The Blue Streaks gained the momentum in the sixth inning. In no-man's land, Jimmy Spagna appeared to be picked off of third base after leading off the inning with a double. BW shortstop Eric Murphy sailed the throw wide allowing Spagna to scoot in to score.
John Carroll extended the inning when David Lykens reached on an error allowing Gentile to cross with ease making it a 7-5 game. Robby Cifelli legged out an infield single to make it a 7-6 game.
Still with runners on the corners it was BW's turn to make a play to escape out of the jam. Cifelli advanced to second on an attempted steal. The Yellow Jackets were able to get out of the inning when Mitchell Herringshaw strayed too far down the line and was thrown out at the plate.
Baldwin Wallace jumped out to a 6-0 lead through the top of the fourth inning. The Yellow Jackets had back-to-back singles in the second inning to get on the board first. BW made it a 3-0 lead in the third on a wild pitch and added three runs in the fourth with the main damage coming on a Brandon Maddern error.
John Carroll finally broke through offensively in the fourth inning. Bobby Sabatino started the rally with a leadoff single up the middle. Turning on an inside pitch Chet Lauer muscled a 2-run homer for his team-leading fifth homer of the season.
BW answered right back with Green's second RBI hit of the day to make it a 7-2 BW lead in the fifth inning.
Kevin Rosinski was charged with the loss falling to 0-2 on the season. Gentile, Sabatino and Spagna all finished with three hits for JCU.
Game Two
Faced with a winner-take-all game the Blue Streaks started off slow at the plate just like the first game. Materise made sure he kept his team in the game.
The freshman righty fired a strong 5 2/3 innings only allowing two runs on six hits pitching his way onto the all-tournament team.
Said Thibeault, "He did a great job. He located his fastball extremely well and had his slider working. He commanded both sides of the plate. Mark did a good job and gave us a lift even though we went down 2-0. Mark was able to battle and get a couple of key outs especially with guys in scoring position. He gave us a big lift when we needed it."
John Carroll strung together one hit through the first three innings off of BW starter Cory Waite. In the fourth inning it all changed.
Sabatino and Lauer reached on back-to-back singles to start the fourth. Finally breaking through on the scoreboard, Spagna drove in JCU's first run of the game scooting a single through the left side. Mark Huddle delivered with a 2-out, 2-run double to give the Blue and Gold a 3-2 lead.
The Yellow Jackets found success in the first game bunting and turned right back to small ball in the top of the second inning. After a 1-out single Baldwin Wallace had the next two hitters reach on bunts to load the bases. BW struck with a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly to push the game's first two runs across the plate.
John Carroll extended its lead to 4-2 with Lauer coming in to score on a Baldwin Wallace error in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Aggressive base running paid dividends for JCU in the seventh inning. Lauer beat out a throw on Spagna's fielder's choice pushing the lead to 5-3. Two batters later David Crowley put JCU up by three with a 1-out single through the right side.
Sophomore Aaron Lapaglia, on in relief, ran into a big jam in the eighth inning allowing the first two Yellow Jackets to reach base. The righty received help from his defense with Spagna digging out a bouncer from Sabatino capping the 4-3 double play. Green, the BW hero from game one looked to extend the inning with a slow chopper up the middle but Huddle cut off the grounder in time for the play.
Lapaglia fired 3 1/3 innings of relief to pick up the save. The sophomore capped the win getting a comebacker to the mound.
"I've never brought a kid back on that short of rest," said Thibeault. "Aaron woke up this morning after doing a great job yesterday flushing any soreness out. He said to us that he wanted the ball. I was thinking maybe the last three innings. Materise's pitch count got up there a little bit and we know he was pretty much good for 80-85 pitches and then starts to struggle. Lapaglia has been a great pitcher for us all year and we were going to run him out there."
Joining Gentile and Materise on the all-tournament team were Lauer, Sabatino and Spagna.
John Carroll's record now stands at 24-15 while Baldwin Wallace fell to 25-18.
John Carroll awaits the NCAA Tournament selections. The field will be unveiled at 12 a.m. on Monday, May 12.