North Central Opens Regional Play with Walkoff Thriller

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DULUTH, Minn. (May 17, 2018) – In a wild opener at the 2018 NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championship, Ryan Scott delivered a walkoff base-hit in the bottom of the ninth as the North Central College baseball team outlasted Dubuque University, 8-7 at Frank Wade Municipal Stadium on Thursday.
Overcoming a deficit on three separate occasions to tie the score 7-7 heading to the bottom of the ninth, Colin Weilbacher doubled to right center field to put the winning run on second with nobody out.
Following a strikeout, Scott stepped to the plate and lofted a soft flyball to right field, just out the reach of the diving right fielder allowing Weilbacher to come trotting home to score the walkoff victory and earn the all-important win in the opener.
"We have a lot of confidence in our lineup, we just talked about believing in each other and we came through today," said Scott following the win.
Getting to the ninth was a bit of a journey for the Cardinals (29-12), as Dubuque (24-16) took a 3-0 lead after the top of the first inning with three of their nine hits in the ballgame coming in the first.  A pair of doubles and a walk suddenly saw the Spartans on top 2-0 without recording an out, but a double play on a sacrifice fly the following batter ran Dubuque out of the inning.
The Cardinal offense said not so fast however, countering with three runs as Quade lined a double of his own the other way to lead off the inning.  Eric Outlaw then shot a single the other way through the right side, scoring Quade, while Michael Mateja shot the third-straight hit the other way moving Outlaw to third.
Mike Wisz cut the score 3-2 with a RBI-groundout to second, plating Outlaw, ahead of John Carmody who quickly tied the score 3-3 with a base-hit up the middle, the fourth of the inning for the Cardinal offense.
"The first inning was crucial for us," said head coach Ed Mathey, "we swung the bats really well and backed up Russell Hoh who struggled a bit in the top of the first.
I felt like our experience from last season really helped us stay calm today, sometimes that excitement early can take you out of a ballgame."
Both starting pitchers settled down over the next three innings, each posting zeros, before the Spartans got to Russell Hoh for two more in the top of the fifth as Thomas Kempf pulled a two-out double down the right field line, scoring a pair to re-gain the lead 5-3 in favor of Dubuque.
North Central got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the fifth, as Mateja was hit by a pitch to start the frame.  After a ground-rule double off the bat of Wisz put runners on second and third with no outs, Carmody drove home Mateja with a sacrifice fly to center, but the Cardinals stranded Wisz on third to end the inning.
After Hoh posted a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, the Cardinals took their first lead of the game as Matt Sutherlanddoubled home Scott who led off with a single to left before another ground-rule double, this one off the bat of Outlaw, scoring Sutherland to give North Central a 6-5 advantage.
That lead quickly dissipated however, as a walk and a hit by pitch, followed by a wild pitch came around to bite the Cardinals as Kempf once again came through with the big hit, lining a single to left to score a pair and take back a 7-6 lead for Dubuque.
With Weilbacher on first and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Rob Marinec hit a high chopper to third and on the subsequent throw to first base Weilbacher rounded second with a full head of steam and slid in just under the tag at third.
That instinctive base-running came up huge for the Cardinals, as Scott lined a two-out single to left to score Weilbacher and tie the score once again.
Freshman Patrick Schaefer was summoned from the bullpen and provided a fantastic pair of innings, cutting down all six batters he faced, showing the poise of an upperclassmen on the big stage.
Schaefer earned the win to improve to 5-0 on the season, striking out two of the six batters he faced without allowing a hit or walk.
Seven of the nine batters in the lineup recorded multiple hits as the Cardinals racked up 16 total hits, led by a 3-for-5 showing from Scott with two RBI and a run scored.  Quade was 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored atop the lineup, while Outlaw added a pair of hits, two RBI and a run scored.
Mateja finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Wisz was 2-for-5 with a run driven in.  Carmody also finished 2-for-4 from the dish with two RBI, while Sutherland added a pair of hits, a run scored and one RBI.
"I'm really proud of our guys and proud of our effort," said Mathey.  "This team battled back and answered the call every time Dubuque went ahead.
Advancing in the winners bracket is always important with the caliber of team at this tournament, but it's not going to be an easy feat."
North Central advances to take on the winner of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Bethel University (Minnesota) tomorrow at 7 p.m.