May 29, 2010

By Bryan Rose
Special to NCAA.com

GRAND CHUTE, WIS. -- The fans at the NCAA Division III baseball championships had to wait until the final game of the first day to see their first home run.

But Illinois Wesleyan did not make them wait long once the game started, hitting two home runs in the first inning on the way to the 7-5 victory over Shenandoah.

Illinois Wesleyan (28-20) will play Heidelberg (41-6) in the winner's bracket game Saturday at 7:45 p.m., while Shenandoah (38-9) will face Johns Hopkins (42-6) in the second elimination game of the day at 1:15 p.m.

Casey McIntosh blasted the first homer of the tournament, a two-run home run with one out in the first. Three batters later, Jeff Grodecki followed in McIntosh's footsteps by hitting the Titans second two-run homer to almost the same spot - this time with two out in the inning.

Behind that fire power, Illinois Wesleyan took a 4-0 lead after one.

Shenandoah countered in the second scoring two runs as the Hornets collected a run on a Wesleyan error and then got an RBI single from Keaton Neeb.

Both teams' pitching staffs settled in after that, each allowing just one run over the next three innings. In the sixth, however, Shenandoah showed that it could knock one out of the park as well, when Cory Nelson hit a solo shot to cut the Illinois Wesleyan lead to 5-4.

But runs in the sixth and seventh innings helped Illinois Wesleyan pull away and secure the win despite Shenandoah scoring a run in the ninth.

Jason Pankau earned the win for the Titans, throwing a complete gaming, allowing five runs on 10 hits while striking out eight.

Greg Van Sickler suffered the loss for Shenandoah despite striking out seven and walking just two. He gave up six runs on 12 hits on six innings of work.