June 1, 2010

Bryan Rose, Special to NCAA.com

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - SUNY-Cortland held off a late Linfield rally in Tuesday's opening game at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships to advance to the afternoon title game.

The Red Dragons used a six-run fourth inning to secure their lead and eventually claimed a 12-9 win over the Wildcats.

Cortland cracked the scoreboard with solo runs in the second and third innings. After Linfield scored in the top of the fourth to halve the lead, the Red Dragons took command of the game with six runs in the bottom of the frame.

Shawn Bailey opened the scoring with an RBI single and Matt June followed with a two-run double to right center. And after Adam Dimino added an RBI single, Andersen Gardner capped the inning with a two-run home run.

Kelson Brown hit a solo home run in the Linfield fifth to cut the deficit to 8-2. The Wildcats continued a comeback with a four-run sixth inning, highlighted by Cole Bixenman's three-run shot over the left field fence.

Cortland, though, added four runs over the next three innings and the Red Devils would need them as Linfield staged a last-ditch ninth inning rally.

The Wildcats loaded the bases and scored three runs before Cortland reliever Brendan Hourihan got the last Linfield batter to ground out to first baseman John Zilnicki and end the game.

Travis Ratliff earned the win, throwing 8 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs on 12 hits while striking out seven.

Gardner led the Red Dragons with a 2-for-4 performance, including four RBI and a home run. June went 4-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored while Khyle Dimino also had a four-hit game.

Tyson Smith had three hits to pace Linfield, while Bixenman, Mitch Webb and Kevin Allan each had two hits.

Cortland was set to face Illinois Wesleyan for the Division III championship at 3:30 p.m. in the tournament's final game.

Linfield will finish third at the championships, their best finish in the history of the program.