May 28, 2010

Harold Gutmann, Special to NCAA.com

CARY, N.C. -- Southern Indiana junior Todd Martin rounded third and couldn't believe what he saw.

"I looked at home plate and the umpire was the only one standing there," Martin said. "(Third-base coach Chris) Marx said 'Go' and I said 'I'm going.' And I just took off."

Martin scored from first on an infield single, Wes Fink homered and Dylan Mooney's two-out single in the seventh scored the winning run as the Screaming Eagles overcame a two-run deficit to defeat Georgia College 3-2 and advance to the NCAA Division II baseball championship game.

The ninth-ranked Screaming Eagles (51-14) will face No. 1 UC San Diego in the final game Saturday at 12:07 p.m. at the USAB National Training Complex. Both teams reached the title game for the first time - UCSD (54-7) lost in the semifinals last year, while USI lost in the semifinals in 2007. Southern Indiana advanced out of the losers bracket, while UCSD advanced out of the winners bracket.

With Martin on first in the fifth inning, Michael Huling hit a dribbler down the third-base line. The throw from third baseman Steve Muoio pulled first baseman Matt Pitts off the bag and no one covered third, giving Martin the extra base. Then as the infielders went to conference on the mound, no one called timeout and Martin raced home.

It may have been evidence that No. 4 Georgia College's run through the losers bracket was finally having an effect. The Bobcats (42-17) lost their opener to UCSD and had won three straight - including a 3-0 victory over USI on Thursday - to get back in position to reach the final.

"You get dumped in the losers bracket Day 1, and from that point on it's not only physically exhausting, it's mentally exhausting," GCSU coach Tom Carty said. "You grind to fight through the losers bracket, and you make mental mistakes and we did, unfortunately."

Sean Harrell doubled and scored in the first inning for the Bobcats, who added a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Muoio.

But Screaming Eagles starter Taylor Dennis (12-1) didn't allow a hit in his last four innings and Rosario - who played the first seven innings at shortstop and scored the winning run - allowed just one single in the final two innings to record his 15th save.

It was the second strong tournament performance for Dennis, who allowed just one run in seven innings against Minnesota State in the first round on Sunday.

Bobcats starter Jason Nicholas had gone 23 innings without allowing an earned run - including eight innings against No. 2 Tampa in an elimination game on Monday - before Fink broke the streak with a leadoff homer in the fifth.

"It was big because after yesterday we didn't score, and that was the first time all year we'd been shutout," said Fink, who went 3-for-4. "Just getting on the board was the big thing right there."

USI scored the winning run in the seventh when Rosario reached on a fielders choice, stole second and scored on the two-out single by Mooney against Ryan Tabor (3-5).

Though losing to Georgia College forced USI to play an extra game Friday in order to advance to the final, it did have a silver lining - now ace Trevor Leach (11-1) and No. 3 pitcher Dan Marcacci are available for the championship game.

The pitchers had been suspended for four games after it was interpreted that they had intentionally hit batters in the Midwest Regional championship game. That meant USI had to not only reach the national final, but also it had to lose once along the way in order to get to play a fifth game.

"A former coach of mine always says things happen for a reason, and somebody took care of those two guys," USI coach Tracy Archuleta said. "They've been first-class individuals through this whole thing. It's not like a situation where they made a mistake. I had no answers for them, they did nothing wrong. And now for them to get an opportunity, it's amazing."