By Austin Walthers
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - California Lutheran scored a 14-5 win over North Central in the final game of the day to advance to the championshp game of bracket two, sending the Cardinals to an elimination game at the NCAA D-III College World Series at Fox Cities Stadium.
“It’s always good to win and this was a big game obviously,” head coach Marty Slimak said. “It kind of keeps us on a roll a little bit and it keeps us in the winner’s bracket.”
The Cardinals showed great starting pitching through regionals and during the first game in Appleton, but it didn’t quite show up against the Kingsmen.
|Weston Clark was the only Cal Lu starter without a hit, but he walked three times and scored three runs in the win.
Photo by Kylie Bridenhagen, d3photography.com
Nate Wehner struggled at times but gave Cal Lutheran seven and a third innings to get the win.
“I think we’re in a great place mentally and emotionally,” North Central head coach Ed Mathey said. “We got two guys sitting and waiting that have thrown the ball pretty well for us down the stretch.”
The first runner of the ball game came when the Kingsmen’s Weston Clark drew a walk with one out in the second. With two outs, Cheynne Giles found the gap and knocked in an RBI triple to give CLU the first lead of the game.
The scoring continued to come for Cal Lu in the third when Austin Kay came around to score after beginning the inning with a single and getting knocked in by a double from Gabe Gunter. Jimmy Jauregui drove in two more with a single and later came around to score from a two out single by Brad Fullerton. By the middle of the third, the Kingsmen built a 5-0 lead.
The Cardinals found baserunners in the bottom of the third from a hit by pitch and a walk with no outs. The first run then came for NCC with one out when Michael Mateja reached on an error and Colin Weilbacher scored.
“Obviously early in the game we want to keep the game as close as possible,” Mateja said. “And chipping away like that is always big. We always talk about responding when teams score runs.”
Kingsmen pitcher Wehner then came back in the inning with a punch out to keep the score 5-1 in his favor.
NCC pulled Evan Blunk after three innings of work to bring in Brett Pyburn. With one out in the fourth, leadoff man Max Weinstein hit a two run shot that just went fair over the right field wall to give the Kingsmen a 7-1 lead.
“I saw that the pitcher that inning was working away,” Weinstein said. “I was looking for something away that I could go that way with. I was actually a little late on it, but I was able to get enough barrel for it to leave.”
Chris Hill opened the Cardinals fourth by getting on from an error and came around to score when Weilbacher drove him from a single to cut the deficit to five. The next batter Matt Southerland drove in John Carmody to put the score at 7-3. Mateja delivered again by cutting the Cardinals deficit to four by providing an RBI single.
Wehner was then able to go onto to pitch three straight scoreless innings after giving up four in the middle innings.
“It’s not like they were crushing the balls all over the yard,” Wehner said. “I knew if I just attacked more with two strikes that I would be fine.”
The Kingsmen provided more insurance runs for their starting pitcher in the seventh inning.
“They were great today,” Wehner said. “It’s nice when you throw up several in the first couple innings and they continued to extend and extend and the defense played great behind me.”
Weinstein came around to score his second run of the game when Gunter hit his second RBI double of the game with only one out in the inning. A two RBI single came three batters later when Fullerton delivered RBI number two and three to put the score 11-4.
“Whenever you can put up crooked numbers late, that’s when you can start separating,” Slimak said. “We kind of came back and said, okay, let’s get back to our approach.”
Miguel Salud made his second relief appearance in as many days after Wehner finished the day throwing 7.1 innings giving up five earned on eight hits and striking out seven.
Slimak said he was pleased by how Wehner minimized the damage when he got into a little trouble.
“There were some chances they had, but Nate came up big,” Slimak said. “On the whole I was very proud of him. He did a great job when he needed to get it done.”
NCC continued to chip away at its deficit in the eighth when the number nine hitter Adam Nelson drove in Sing Fong on a two out RBI single. Salud was then able to strike out the Cardinals leadoff man to end any further damage.
“We take a little pride in that we’re going to keep battling and fighting,” Mathey said. “One of the important things too in a tournament like this, you got to keep battling and make them work.”
Cal Lu didn’t stop in the ninth as Giles delivered again, but this time with an RBI double to left field to score Clark. The next batter Trey Saito knocked in Fullerton for the 13th run of the game. Kay then added on the fourth consecutive hit for an RBI double.
Salud came on again for the ninth, put a guy on with one out and then struck out the next two to end the game.
The Kingsmen have scored 18 runs in two games and Weinstein said it’s important to continue to get the hot starts in games.
“Just staying loose and relaxed, being confident up there,” Weinstein said. “Our coaches are always telling us to remind yourself that we are the best on the yard and try to be the best on the yard that day especially with all these great players out there.”