Sonoma State’s Alex Todd was well aware of the impressive win streak No. 1 Grand Valley State was riding heading into the NCAA Division II Championship.
But Todd certainly wasn’t intimidated by the 32-game win streak of the Lakers, and the senior put an end to it Sunday afternoon at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Todd ripped a single to right in the bottom of the 11th inning, bringing Steve Filippi across the plate as the Sea wolves (37-20) earned a heart-stopping 7-6 win against the Lakers (54-4) in the opening round of the tournament.
“When you have that kind of winning streak, you feel like you can’t lose,” Todd told the official school site. “By putting pressure on them, we finally made our opportunity count.”
The Lakers, trying to become the second consecutive national champion from the Midwest Region, led 3-0 after two innings as Zach Laupp drew a bases loaded walk and Cory Phillips came through with a two-run double.
But the Seawolves refused to back down, grabbing a 5-4 lead in the fifth and tying the game at 6-6 in the ninth on a home run by O’Koyea Dickson.
“I just wanted to put a good swing on it,” Dickson said. “I’m just real proud of my teammates for sticking in there and never giving up.”
Nine different players for the Seawolves tallied a hit, including two apiece by Filippi and Garrett Gooselaw. Dickson and Randy Wells drove in two runs apiece to pace Sonoma State’s offensive attack.
Brian Bordagaray got the job done on the hill. He pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of the game and allowed only two hits. He struck out two as well.
Perhaps what is most amazing about the upset Sonoma State pulled off is that the Seawolves committed three errors against the Lakers, which is typically a recipe for disaster against a top-ranked team.
“It’s tough to play big games,” Sonoma State head coach John Goelz said. “Staying focused is what its all about. There’s going to be mistakes made and the idea is not to fall apart. Obviously we made mistakes, but we didn’t fall apart, so we limited the damage. I think that great teams win those games. Yeah, we could have won earlier, but I’m proud of the way we handled the mistakes that we made and we kept playing.”
It was a different story for the Lakers, who haven’t lost since a 6-1 setback to Saginaw Valley State on April 9. GVSU lost despite tallying 12 hits. Paul Young, Steve Anderson, Andrew Trepel and Torre Aguirre came up with two hits apiece.
But GVSU left 12 runners on base in a game where the two teams combined to strand 21. Cory Rademacher took the loss, giving up the winning run and two hits. He struck out one in 1/3 innings of action.
As tough as the setback was to deal with, though, Steve Lyon said his team will move on from it.
“Overall, we played poorly and we were still in it in the 11th inning,” Lyon said. “I strongly feel like we’ll put this behind us and go about our business and try to win a game on Tuesday.”
This was one of those games where the pain of losing seems to be magnified. Goelz was proud of the effort his team gave in the victory.
“I feel very fortunate to be part of a phenomenal college baseball game,” Goelz said. “Two teams battled n tough conditions and I’m proud of my players for hanging in there.”