GRAND CHUTE, Wis. — Sophomore Evan Brockmeier came off the bench to deliver a pair of clutch two-run singles and Pioneer pitchers combined for their 14th shutout of the year as No. 1 Marietta opened NCAA Division III Championship play with an 8-0 victory against Salisbury Friday at Fox Cities Stadium.
With the victory, the Etta Express (43-3), winners of 19 in a row, advance to take on Chapman in a winners’ bracket game at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday after the Panthers opened the 2011 Championship with a 9-4 victory against Kean.
Friday’s match-up between the Pioneers and the Sea Gulls (33-13) began as a pitcher’s duel. Both offenses were limited to just one hit over the first five innings.
Salisbury threatened to break the deadlock with two hits in the top of the sixth, but a heads up defense play from Marietta’s middle infield shutdown the rally and ignited the Pioneer faithful. Following the Sea Gulls second single of the frame, junior All-American Tim Saunders redirected a cutoff throw to second baseman Kirby Becker, which cut down the Salisbury runner trying to sneak into second base.
The energized Marietta dugout then gained further momentum when senior All-American John Snyder opened the bottom of the sixth with a single up the middle. Sophomore All-Region right fielder Aaron Hopper added a one-out single, before senior Casey Levens drove in the first run of the game with a RBI hit to left and hustled to second on a throw. Salisbury then pulled in the infield to try to limit the damage. Brockmeier, who entered as a pinch runner in the fifth, bounced a two-run single over the second baseman’s head to extend Marietta’s lead to 3-0.
The Etta Express tacked on three more runs in the seventh. Snyder once again got the offense going with a leadoff single. After a bunt single from Saunders, Hopper reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Levens once again delivered a RBI single, this time to right center. Brockmeier then added another two-run single against a drawn in infield to boost the Pioneer advantage to 6-0.
Back-to-back walks by Snyder and Becker started the eighth inning. Hopper then produced a RBI double and Levens added a sacrifice fly to give the Pioneers their eighth run of the day.
Snyder, Hopper, Levens, Brockmeier and sophomore Bryan Gregorich (Chardon/Chardon) all had a pair of hits in Marietta’s 11-hit attack.
“Casey had a big knock and we had some guys make some adjustments offensively, which is what good teams do,” Head Coach Brian Brewer said. “I think their kid threw the ball well and they caught the ball for the most part. It was a pretty clean game on both sides.”
The Etta Express pitchers limited the Sea Gulls to just five hits on the day. Junior ABCA Co-Player of the Year and D3Baseball.com Pitcher of the Year Brian Gasser scattered three hits and three walks while striking out four over the first six innings to improve to 14-0. Senior All-American Mark Williams fanned three and allowed two hits over the next two innings, before junior closer Kyle Lindquist struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect ninth to seal the win.
“I didn’t think Brian (Gasser) had his best stuff, but we keep saying that now over his last three starts and he still keeps throwing up zeros,” Brewer said. “Mark (WIlliams) came in and I don’t think he had his best stuff either but again he kept throwing up zeros and then Kyle (Lindquist) did an excellent job closing it on the back end for us.”