Mesa walks off into today’s Division II baseball national title game
CARY, N.C. — Junior Garrett Woodward scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field off the bat of Kevan Elcock in the bottom of the ninth inning, providing the game-winning run for the fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa University baseball team in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over top-ranked Tampa in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II Baseball World Series at USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The victory advanced the Mavericks to their first appearance in the national title game, scheduled for 5 p.m. today. Mesa will take on Southern Indiana, a 4-3 winner over Minnesota State-Mankato in the day’s other semifinal.
The Mavs are playing for their first national championship in program history.
Mesa (47-12) trailed Tampa (54-4) 2-0 early, but scored single runs in each of the final three innings to deny the Spartans a shot at their second consecutive national title. Two of the three runs the Mavs scored were unearned, including the game-winner.
The Mavericks managed just two hits off Tampa starter David Heintz in the first six innings and started the seventh with an out as well. However, Nate Robertson reached on a fielding error by the Tampa catcher, and pinch-hitter Roman Chavez drew a walk. Two batters later, Woodward ripped a single to left to score Robertson and cut the Mesa deficit to 2-1.
Tampa brought in closer Kevin McNorton for his fifth appearance of the tournament, hoping the senior right-hander could protect the lead and earn his third save of the series.
McNorton (7-2) collected the final out of the seventh and the first two outs of the eighth before Mesa’s Garrett Carpenter doubled to right. The Spartans intentionally walked the national player of the year, Austin Kaiser, but Robertson followed with an RBI single down the left-field line to tie the game at 2-all. The Mavericks threatened to take the lead when Chavez singled down the left field line as well, but Tampa left fielder Michael Danner gunned down Kaiser at the plate to preserve the tie.
Mesa’s fourth reliever of the day, Tyler Ehlers (2-0), who entered the game in the top of the seventh, retired all seven batters he faced, including the side in the Tampa ninth.
McNorton retired the first batter of the Mavs’ ninth on a groundout, but Woodward delivered his third hit of the game on a single to shortstop. Austin Wallingford then hit a potential double-play grounder to short, but instead the Tampa shortstop threw wide of the bag at second.
The Spartans removed their left fielder and brought in a fifth infielder to try and stop any grounder from driving in the winning run. McNorton got a fly ball to very shallow right field — less than 10 steps off the infield — and right fielder Zach Gawrych made a one-hop throw to the plate that beat Woodward there by two or three steps. However, the Tampa catcher could not come up with the ball, and Woodward slid in with the game-winning run.
Before Mesa’s rally, Tampa had enjoyed the lead since the third inning, when Connor Obrochta produced a leadoff double to left, moved to third on Orlando Rivera’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a fielding error by the Mavericks’ pitcher.
The Spartans increased their advantage to 2-0 in the top of the sixth after Sean O’Brien walked with one out and Danner followed with an RBI triple into the right-centerfield gap.
Mavs starter Joey Danner went six innings, giving up five hits, walking one and striking out one.
The five Tampa hits came from five different players. Woodward was the only player with more than one hit for Mesa, which had seven hits.
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