May 25, 2010

Harold Gutmann
Special to NCAA.com

CARY, N.C. - The top four ranked teams in the country have each played twice in the Division II national baseball championship, and have put up a total of 14 runs.

And then there's Southern Indiana, which has put up 15 runs just by itself.

The Screaming Eagles kept the scoreboard operator busy again on Tuesday, defeating Kutztown, 7-1, to advance to Thursday's semifinal round. They will face the winner of Wednesday afternoon's elimination game between No. 3 Central Missouri and No. 4 Georgia College.

No. 9 Southern Indiana (50-13) upped its school record in wins and runs scored (529) and has averaged more than eight runs a game in the postseason. After being held in check for five innings by Nathan Reed (6-4) Tuesday night, the Screaming Eagles broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning and followed that with a two-run seventh.

"We came over here on a hot streak, and we just need one guy to flip the switch and everyone just feeds off that," said leadoff hitter Wandy Rosario, who has reached base in 7 of 11 plate appearances so far at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

After hitting 11 singles in an 8-6 win over Minnesota State to open the tournament, Southern Indiana finally got an extra-base hit from second baseman Brad Vance, and it turned out to be the winner. Vance went on an outside slider from Reed for a triple that broke a 1-1 tie with two outs in the sixth inning. After Todd Martin walked, Rosario followed with a two-run single and Michael Huling doubled to complete the big inning.

Martin's walk was one of three issued by Reed in the sixth, who finished with six walks and two hit batters in 5 2/3 innings.

"We saw he had 44 walks in 67 innings (coming in)," coach Tracy Archuleta said. "We knew he could get a little erratic. He's a great pitcher, but he just lost it for an inning and our guys took advantage."

While No. 6 Kutztown (42-14) went with Reed, who led the team in ERA (2.28), innings (57) and strikeouts (66), Southern Indiana had to go to No. 4 starter Josh Schultze. Two Southern Indiana starters - ace Trevor Leach and No. 3 Dan Marcacci - served the second game of a four-game suspension for hitting batters in the regional final, and No. 2 Taylor Dennis pitched the tournament opener.

But Schultze (9-2) came through with a complete game, scattering eight hits in a 116-pitch performance. The run was unearned and the righty didn't walk a batter.

"You get tired but adrenaline kicks in too," said the sophomore, who transferred from Kentucky Wesleyan. "And my teammates are backing me up and doing their job and that helps me."

Kutztown had runners on the corners with no outs in the fourth but couldn't score. The Bears had an identical situation the next inning, and could only get a two-out RBI single from Corey Buletza, who was thrown out going for an extra base to end any chance for more.

"We take it as, we're getting the opportunities, we'll get them again, and maybe we can capitalize on them the next time," Kutztown coach Chris Blum said.

Schultze didn't allow a runner past first in the last four innings. With its top four starters all unavailable, Archuleta said he wasn't sure who would take the mound on Thursday. "We're thin on the bump and everybody here knows it," Archuleta said. "It's tough for me to look in the dugout right now and not see those two faces (Leach and Marcacci)."

But at least the Screaming Eagles were through. Kutztown's loss sets up an elimination game against No. 13 Franklin Pierce - a rematch of Sunday's first-round game that took more than nine hours to complete, thanks to two long weather delays and a power outage, before the Bears won 2-1 in 12 innings.

"It's going to be an interesting game, especially after Sunday's marathon," Blum said. "Having seen them maybe we have a little bit to go on, but obviously they've seen us to."