Opening games bring drama at regionals

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Joe Silva slides in ahead of the tag
Joe Silva slides in ahead of the tag of Logan Nissen, whose wild pitch, combined with catcher Nick Caldeen's throwing error, allowed Concordia-Chicago to score two runs on the final play of the game and defeat Bethany Lutheran.
Concordia-Chicago athletics photo
Colin Morse working from the windup.
Colin Morse kept the Hornets' streak in opening day wins intact as Shenandoah won their ninth regional opener in as many appearances.
Shenandoah athletics photo

Regional previews

Concordia-Chicago won in dramatic fashion, while Swarthmore rallied for its first-ever playoff win and Shenandoah got past Marietta as part of Thursday's early action at the 2018 Division III baseball regionals.

While rain forced adjustments to the schedule, including relocation of some games, at the Mid-Atlantic and New England regionals, the Midwest, New York, Mideast, South and Central regionals all had exciting, close opening games. But none was more dramatic than the opener in Duluth, Minnesota, where Bethany Lutheran, the sixth seed after its upstart win against host school St. Scholastica in the UMAC tournament, took Concordia-Chicago to the brink in the Midwest Regional opener. In the end, however, the unrelenting Cougars prevailed, scoring five runs in the bottom of the ninth, the last two on a wild pitch, to defeat the Vikings 13-12.

Rain early in the New England and Mid-Atlantic forced the regionals to push all the games into the late afternoon and spit the field over two nearby baseball fields. So much so, that the Harwich Regional ended up not in Harwich. And thanks to the NCAA, it wasn't particularly regional either. 

Bethany Lutheran (23-11) led 5-3 headed into the seventh inning, before each team put up crooked numbers in each of the final three frames. Concordia-Chicago (34-12) seemed to be done after the Vikings scored twice in the ninth, the second on an RBI double by Mylo Hommes, to take a 12-8 lead. Eighth and ninth hitters Connor Brandon and Keegan Tyrell started off the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles and Mercado walked, loading the bases. Logan Nissen came in to relieve Alex Babcock and hit Brian VanDuser with a pitch to force in a run. Joe Silva followed with an RBI single to bring in two runs and cut the lead to 12-11. After a double steal and an intentional walk, Nissen threw a wild pitch, allowing VanDuser to score, and BLC catcher Nick Caldeen threw the ball away, allowing Silva to slide across with the winning run.

Shenandoah won its regionals opener for the ninth time in nine NCAA appearances, and did it behind the right arm of Colin Morse. The senior threw a complete game, allowing just seven hits, six of them singles, as the Hornets defeated Marietta 3-2 at the Mideast Regional.

In the eighth and ninth, Marietta put the tying run in scoring position only to see Morse get out of it with a 4-6-3 double play and a groundout, pop out, respectively. "Colin (Morse) was the story of the game," said Shenandoah coach Kevin Anderson. "What a performance – he threw basically two pitches (fastball and slider) and only walked one batter."

Trey Sledge allowed just one run in six and two-thirds innings and Alex Garrett got the win with an inning and a third of shutout relief as Rhodes tamed the prolific Franklin offense in a 4-2 victory at the Central Regional. Sam Claycamp got the Grizzlies (38-4) on the board early with a solo homer in the first, but Franklin left the bases full in the seventh, left a runner on third in the eighth and did not challenge in the ninth.

Nick Bosma, who started the game at first base for Rhodes, came on to get the final three outs for the save, but not before he threw up at the mound. Seriously. That happened. 

Colin Selby threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts as top-seeded Randolph-Macon team edged sixth-seeded LaGrange 2-1 in the opener of the South Regional. Division III's leader with 122 strikeouts, Selby scattered eight hits in improving to 11-2. Jeff Butler, who went 2-for-5, pushed the go-ahead run across with an RBI single in the seventh, scoring Zach Evans.

Amherst was holding an 2-1 edge in runs entering the pivotal eighth inning against Southern Maine in the New York Regional. Amherst was looking for some insurance but Ariel Kennedy was thrown out at the plate to end the inning by Zach Quintal. The Huskies proceeded to score twice for the eventual 3-2 final, with Dylan Hapworth scoring the go-ahead run on a throwing error by the catcher.

Both Wisconsin schools survived the day with UW-Whitewater having an easier time than UW-Oshkosh. UWW held a slim 2-1 led through five innings but added ten in the final three frames for a 12-1 victory over Monmouth at the Central Regional. The Titans scored three runs in the first inning but surrendered single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to knot the score at three apiece with Bethel after the regulation nine at the Midwest Regional. Lucas Gregory came in the ninth, got the final out and kept Bethel off balance until the offense could scratch a run.

Swarthmore scored five in the eighth inning and added two in the ninth to win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1985, defeating Baldwin Wallace 11-6 in the first game at the New York Regional. The Yellow Jackets (31-13) had scored four times in the bottom of the seventh, with a bases-clearing double by Philip Wells putting giving them a 6-4 lead. But the Garnet (34-9) answered immediately, with the big blow coming from Jackson Roberts, whose three-run homer hit the left field foul pole and gave Swarthmore the lead for good.

Michael Wielansky had an RBI single for Wooster in its 4-2 win vs. Wabash in the Mideast Regional. He became just the second junior to compile 200 hits, 200 runs, and 150 RBI in a career, joining Matt Gelotti of Southwestern as the only juniors to reach those milestones.

"It's an incredible accomplishment for me," Wielansky said. "I got to give a lot of that to my teammates also. I try and get on base, hit the ball hard, do whatever I can, but without them behind me, protecting me, knocking me in, I don't think I'd nearly have any of those numbers. It's a real special accomplishment. I don't take anything for granted, but definitely give a lot of credit to my teammates as well."

Not to be outdone, Cortland walked off on a passed ball in extra innings at the New York Regional. Westfield State scored two in the fifth and added one in the seventh to tie its game at four against the Red Dragons (33-10), but a single, an intentional walk and an unintentional walk loaded the bases with one out for Cortland. Westfield State (24-17-1) got one infield grounder to preserve the tie, but Vincenzo Camera's pitch got away from Alex Benevides and Joe Tardif came in to score the winning run. The nightcap at the New York Regional was a dramatic one as well, as Connor Reeves threw a complete game in Salisbury's 10-inning 3-2 win vs. St. Joseph's (L.I.). Reeves threw 141 pitches, striking out 10 and walking one, scattering seven hits to improve to 14-3. Simon Palenchar was the hero in extra innings, as he pinch-hit with two outs in the 10th and singled to left field, bringing Joe Doherty around to score.

From the Mideast Regional: La Roche with a 5-1 win over Ithaca, and Adrian with a 11-5 win over Otterbein will meet on Friday in the second winner's bracket game of the day on Adrian's Nicolay Field. Tre Thomas earned his ninth win of the season, yielding one run on four hits in 6.2 innings for the Red Hawks in their day one win. For host Adrian the margin was much narrower until a five run ninth nailed down the win. Tommy Parsons added to his program-leading win totals with a complete game victory for the Bulldogs.

Matt Mulhearn went the first five and two-thirds and Shane Donovan came on for the 10-out save as top-seeded Webster defeated Thomas More 6-4 in the Central Regional. Leadoff hitter Mike Wick hit two doubles and scored a pair of runs in the win. 

Zachary Schindler had two hits on the day as the
top third of the batting order accounted for 7-of-11
hits on the day for the Lions. photo by Dave Hilbert

It was business a usual for The College of New Jersey in a 5-2 win over Alvernia. The top of the order accounted for 7-of-11 hits and four of five runs in the contest while Joe Cirillo kept the Golden Wolves at bay. Also at the South Regional, Christopher Newport earned the program's first NCAA Tournament victory since 2012 behind a masterful pitching performance by sophomore ace Thomas Packert, defeating Denison 4-1. Packert improved to 9-1 after a dominating 7-inning performance in which he didn't allow a single ball into the outfield on a fly. He struck out eight batters and induced nine groundball outs with three infield pop-ups. The Captains' leader on the mound also endured an hour-and-a-half rain delay in the middle of his outing, returning to the mound for his final two innings.

The Dutchmen found the going easy in Pennsylvania's Dutch Country as they scored early and late as Union scored a 10-3 win over Arcadia. Seven Dutchmen finished the game with multiple hits, led by Harrison Glatt who went 3-for-5. Jake Vesling pitched the complete game, giving up just two earned runs, while striking out four batters for his eighth win of the season.

While Union was dealing, so was Misericordia. The Cougars' starter, Drake Koch was dominant on the mound, throwing a complete game, as the Cougars defeated the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins, 4-1 at PeoplesBank Park. Misericordia will play Rowan, a 9-0 winner over Castleton, on Friday. Half of the Mid-Atlantic Regional games were played at Harford Community College, in Bel Air, Maryland. That included a game which had a little bit of everything, as first baseman Brennan Cotter scored twice and drove in six runs, but Babson's Mark Webber drove in Brian McHale with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Catholic 12-11.

North Central made it two walkoff wins in two games at the Midwest Regional, as right fielder Colin Weilbacher led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double to the gap in right center and Ryan Scott drove the gap as well to bring him around for the winning run in an 8-7 victory. Russell Hoh got the start for the Cardinals (29-12) and gave up all seven runs, including five RBI by Dubuque DH Thomas Kempf. Patrick Schaefer came on and pitched two innings of perfect relief to pick up the win and improve to 5-0. The Spartans fell to 24-16.

Bray Currari, the MVP of the CSAC tournament last weekend, continued his late-season heroics giving Keystone a 3-2 victory over Mitchell. The Giants took an early 2-0 lead in the third and saw that lead disappear in the seventh on defensive miscues. Curreri's two-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning ended the game in the 168th minute.

Redlands starter Felix Minjarez kept Texas-Dallas off the board nearly all game at the West Regional and down to its final strike in the ninth inning, the Comets tied the game and went on to win 3-1 in the next inning. With two outs in the ninth, Rodney Corbin laced an 0-2 pitch from Minjarez, scoring Ryan Burciaga from second base to knot the contest. The Comets then plated a pair of runs in the top of the 10th off of Bulldog reliever Justin Yang, picking up RBI hits from Matt Mikusek and Josh Covey. Also in Spokane, Willamette built a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning over top seeded Chapman but despite the deficit, opportunities were there for another Panthers comeback. Chapman fell 10-5 to the Bearcats. Chapman pounded out 17 hits to actually outhit the Bearcats by five hits. However, the Panthers left 11 runners on base and hit into three double plays that cut rallies short.

Ramapo and Western New England combined for 34 runs on 36 hits to please those in the crowd that wanted to see the swingers take over the ballgame. Only the Golden Bears' second baseman Aaron Rios was shut out of the hit parade. Ramapo took a 7-5 lead after two innings and added on as Western New England chased them on the scoreboard. The Golden Bears failed to recapture the lead and Ramapo won 19-15.