May 30, 2009

CARY, N.C. - Starting pitcher Dan Wright overcame a first-inning run and tournament Most Outstanding Player Tommy Kahnle retired all six batters he faced in relief as Lynn claimed its first-ever Division II baseball national title with a 2-1 victory over Emporia State in the championship game of the 2009 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Kahnle posted a 1-0 record with two saves at the National Finals, retiring 21 of the final 22 batters he faced, including the last 13 in a row.

Lynn finishes the season with a record of 46-16, while Emporia State closes with a 49-14 mark.

Emporia State starting pitcher Ben Graham (8-4) escaped trouble in the top of the first after Lynn put runners on first and second with one out. Leadoff batter Douglas Toro reached on a bunt single and Daniel Flores was hit by a pitch one out later. Graham, who got a strikeout for the first out, struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

Emporia State loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first, Wright's defensive play helped limit the Hornets to a single run. Connor Crumbliss led off with a single to center and after a sacrifice, Wright walked the next two batters. Kellen Lane, whose ninth-inning walk-off home run Thursday sent Emporia State to the championship game, lined the ball off of Wright's left shoulder. Wright recovered to throw Lane out at first as Crumbliss crossed the plate for the game's first run.

Lynn answered in the top of the second as Paddy Matera's leadoff double and Kyle Holloway's single put runners on the corners with nobody out. Matera came home on Chad Crowe's sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1.

The Fighting Knights went on top in the third as Flores singled with one out and stole second. Chris Chavez singled down the right field line one out later to bring in Flores. Chavez's rbi-single would prove to be the game-winner.

Emporia State threatened in the second on Jacob White's one-out triple and again in the third on back-to-back two-out singles, but was unable to capitalize. Wright retired eight consecutive batters before giving up a one-out single to Lane in the sixth. The Hornets had runners on first and third with two outs, but Lynn right fielder Jason Ten Eyck robbed White of a run-scoring hit with a sliding catch on a fly ball to shallow right.

Lynn had a chance to add to its lead in the top of the seventh after one-out singles by Toro and Einar Atencio. But Graham got out of the jam on a strikeout and Gabe MacDougall's fly out to the warning track in center. The Fighting Knights had runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth, but Graham stopped the rally with his career-high 10th strikeout of the game.

Wright (15-2) scattered six hits and benefitted from a close call to end the bottom of the seventh. Conner Crumbliss singled with one out and attempted to steal second one out later. Crowe fielded catcher Kyle Holloway's throw and Crumbliss was called out at second.

Kahnle entered the game to start the eighth and got two groundouts after Ten Eyck caught Kenny Burkhead's fly ball to the warning track on the right field line. Kahnle retired the first two batters n the ninth on a pop out to short and a fly out to shallow center. Second baseman Paddy Matera caught a pop fly for the final out to give the Fighting Knights the championship.

Graham, whose previous high strikeout total was nine, allowed nine hits in eight innings.

Kahnle was among five Lynn players selected to the All-Tournament Team, joined by Wright, Crowe, Flores and MacDougall. Graham, Lane and White represented Emporia State on the All-Tournament Team. Also selected were Spencer Sobol of Belmont Abbey, Daniel Pembroke of Dowling and Josh Tanner of UC San Diego.

Both Lynn and Emporia State entered the championship game unbeaten in the National Finals. Lynn, which posted a 4-0 record in the South Regional, became the first team since Tampa in 2006 to go through the entire NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament without a loss.

Saturday's contest marked the fifth time in the 42-year history of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship that the title game was decided by one run. The combined three runs tied for the lowest scoring national championship game. Cal State Northridge defeated Nichols State 2-1 in 1970, the third year of the championship.