Marietta wins region behind pitching
Tournament MVP Saunders drives in both Pioneer runs
MARIETTA, Ohio — Historically, Marietta closer Kyle Lindquist has had some of his worst performances against rival Heidelberg.
But with a berth to the NCAA Division III Finals on the line, Lindquist delivered in the clutch.
"We work as hard as anybody, and I didn't want to be the one to go out there and blow it for everyone," said Lindquist, who picked up his 11th save of the season.
He didn't let anyone down, including most of the 1,057 fans at Don Schaly Stadium, as the Pioneers held on for 2-1 victory in the Marietta Regional Championship game on Saturday.
Neither did Brian Gasser, who pitched on two days rest. Gasser gave Marietta seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits. He also pitched out of a couple jams, courtesy of some timely double plays.
"I had a few mechanical issues early, but I had a lot of confidence in my teammates and our defense," said Gasser, who improved to 13-0.
With the win, Marietta will face Salisbury (Md.) at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, Wis. This is the Pioneers first trip since 2007 and 21st overall appearance.
Saturday's match-up was the sixth of the season between No. 1 Marietta and No. 10 Heidelberg. On Friday, the Pioneers routed the Student Princes 23-6. Saturday's battle was a much better representation of how the rivalry has played out in recent years.
"It's so exciting that it really hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm sure it's going to in a few weeks that we actually did this," Gasser said. "I knew it was going to be a whole different atmosphere today."
Marietta coach Brian Brewer never wavered on starting Gasser, despite having some battle tested arms that were fresh.
"His short outing (in the regional opener) came back to help us a little," Brewer said. "Our goal was to get seven innings out of him. I asked him before the game if he could give seven to nine innings. He just had that look about him."
Gasser's counterpart, freshman Chris Thomas, nearly matched the performance.
Thomas gave up a run in the first, but managed to get out of a bases-loaded jam that inning and again in the second. Thomas was limited early this season because of arm issues, but Heidelberg coach Matt Palm said he knew Thomas could deliver this type of showing.
"We brought him along slowly and he pitched in some JV games this year," Palm said. "What a way to come out and pitch on the big stage. You could tell he had his adrenaline pumping."
One Marietta hitter who figured out Thomas was Regional Tournament MVP Tim Saunders. The Pioneer shortstop said Brewer pulled him aside recently to offer some suggestions on his approach at the plate.
"I've been pulling off a lot on balls lately, so coach just reminded me to see it deep and take it the other way," said Saunders, who finished 2-for-4 and drove in both runs. "This is a chance of a lifetime. Not every (Division III player) gets to do this … go to Appleton and play for a championship."
Brewer said he reminded the Pioneers before the game that this was their moment to shine, and it was only appropriate to be against their Ohio Athletic Conference rival.
"We try not to get caught up in (the emotion of the day), but it was an exceptional crowd and the type of game you would expect from the best two teams in the Mideast," Brewer said. "We haven't been to (Wisconsin) for awhile, so the guys are really pumped."