May 23, 2010

Harold Gutmann
Special to

CARY, N.C. - Kutztown had more than its share of adversity against Franklin Pierce in its first game of the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championships.

They had to face All-American pitcher Jose Macias. There were two lightning delays and a lighting delay lasting more than five and a half hours. Kutztown had the potential winning run thrown out at the plate in the ninth because of a missed sign. And Franklin Pierce had a runner in scoring position in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings.

More than nine hours after it started, the sixth-ranked Golden Bears finally came out victorious. No. 9 hitter Brett Wigder blooped a single over the drawn-in infield with the bases loaded and no outs as Kutztown won 2-1 in 12 innings at the USAB National Training Complex.

"The longest, most bizarre game I've ever been involved with," said Kutztown coach Chris Blum, who won his 300th game in the regional final. "Between the rain and the lights going out, I was just waiting for the fog to roll in and give us another delay."

Kutztown (42-13) will face the Minnesota State-Southern Indiana winner Tuesday at 7 p.m., while No. 13 Franklin Pierce (41-16-1) will play the loser in an elimination game Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Mike Kacelowicz (3-for-5) singled to start the bottom of the 12th, went to second when Matt Kulbacki walked and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Pinch hitter Cody Montz was walked intentionally to get to Wigder, who was 0-for-4 in the game.

"I saw the infield was in, so I was just trying to get something to the outfield so a run could score," Wigder said. "We'd been here long enough."

Wigder got just enough of the second pitch to get it over the head of second baseman Cody Kauffman. A game that started at 1:03 p.m. ended at 10:14 p.m.

"It's been the case all year these kids will not give up, and they did that tonight through tough and trying times," Blum said.

The first lightning delay occurred after the eighth inning and took 68 minutes. That turned out to be the appetizer and was followed by a four-hour, 10-minute weather delay in the bottom of the 10th. To top it off, a power surge caused half the lights to go out with Kacelowicz on first in the bottom of the 12th, stopping the game for an additional 20 minutes.

Kutztown had won just once in four prior appearances at the national championships, and that came in 2002.

The pitching matchup appeared to be a mismatch. Macias (9-1), the Ravens righty, was one of six finalists for the Tino Martinez Division II Player of the Year award. The Bronx resident held the school record with 16 2/3 hitless innings in a row, including a no-hitter against Saint Michael's on March 15. He had allowed nine runs in 84 innings, with 110 strikeouts and 19 walks.

Kutztown lefty Jonathan Grosse (7-1) also sported a great record, but with a 4.70 ERA and almost as many walks (26) as strikeouts (34). Yet both pitchers had allowed just one run in eight innings.

"I was trying to live on that black and keep them off balance," said Grosse, who threw his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes.

Macias had allowed three singles and three walks, striking out eight, while Grosse had allowed four singles and two walks, striking out nine. Grosse had been more economical (101 pitches to Macias' 122), but Kutztown's run in the bottom of the second was unearned.

It started with back-to-back singles by Michael Dugan and Kacelowicz. Matt Kulbacki laid a bunt down the first-base line, and when Ravens first baseman Isaac Wenrich tried to get the lead runner at third, his throw went into the outfield and allowed Dugan to score.

The error also put two runners in scoring position with no outs, but Macias avoided further damage by striking out the next three batters.

Franklin Pierce's Wenrich made up for his errant throw by scoring the tying run in the top of the fourth. The only lefty in the lineup, Wenrich led off the fourth with a single and advanced to second on a bunt by Phil Hendricks. Grosse struck out Nick LaCroix for the second out, but No. 7 hitter Derek Ingui came through with a single to left, and Wenrich slid into home just ahead of a strong throw by outfielder Shayne Houck.

After singles by James Quigley and Kacelowicz, Kutztown had the winning run on third with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Blum said he took off the bunt sign, but Kulbacki tried for a squeeze anyway, and pinch runner Gilbert Vega was thrown out at home after Ravens catcher Mike Dowd blocked the plate perfectly.

Franklin Pierce wasn't any better in the clutch. After going eight innings without an extra-base hit against Grosse, LaCroix and Kauffman each doubled with two outs in the ninth and tenth innings, respectively, but were left stranded.

The Ravens got leadoff singles in the 11th and 12th and moved both runners over with bunts, but again couldn't score. Wenrich was doubled off second on a lineout by LaCroix in the 11th, and Ingui was picked off second in the 12th.