May 26, 2010

Harold Gutmann
Special to NCAA.com

CARY, N.C. - Three days after Franklin Pierce lost to Kutztown in a nine-hour, 12-inning marathon that is believed to be the fourth-longest non-suspended game in NCAA history, the Ravens got their revenge - they ended the Golden Bears' season, quickly.

In a game took a more standard two hours, 48 minutes played on a clear, 80-degree night, No. 13 Franklin Pierce jumped out to an early lead and won 6-2 to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II baseball championships for the third time in eight seasons.

Lefty Brian Maloney (5-5), who took the loss Sunday, came back with 8 1/3 strong innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and striking out seven at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

"I didn't want to be the guy to take on two losses to get us home," the junior said. "I used that as drive to get us through the game."

Ravens third baseman Derek Ingui, who came in with highest batting average among players still alive in the tournament (.556), lifted a double to right center to get a first-inning lead. The hit scored Phil Hendricks, who reached on a throwing error with two outs.

The doubles came back-to-back in the second inning, courtesy of No. 7 and No. 8 hitters Nick LaCroix and Cody Kauffman. Kauffman then stole third and scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-0.

Franklin Pierce (43-16-1) had mustered just one run in 12 innings in their previous 2-1 loss to No. 9 Kutztown (42-15), which featured three delays that totaled almost six hours.

"I feel that hitters in general come out a little bit nervous, that's what really led us to not hit in Game 1," Ingui said. "Now we're starting to get more comfortable."

Kutztown starter Adam Maini (2-3) - who pitched two scoreless innings on Sunday - settled down, retiring 11 batters in a row and giving the Bears a chance to get back in the game.

Sophomore Shayne Houck, who was named a first-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association earlier in the day, led off the fourth with a double and Michael Dugan walked. With two outs, Matt Kulbacki hit a double just inside the left-field foul line, but Dugan was thrown out at the plate on a clean relay from Mike Munoz to Ingui to catcher Mike Dowd.

The Golden Bears got two more runners on in the fifth, but Houck's liner went directly to LaCroix in center. They finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

"(Maloney) threw a lot of off-speed (stuff), mixed his pitches up really well, kept us off-balance," Houck said. "We popped him up way too much."

The Ravens then blew the game open with a three-run sixth that included another double by Ingui and a two-run single by Nick LaCroix.

Franklin Pierce will face top-ranked UC San Diego, which won its first two games against No. 4 Georgia College and No. 3 Central Missouri, Thursday at 7 p.m.

If the Ravens win on Thursday, it will force a winner-take-all game Friday. Franklin Pierce lost to Tampa in its previous two semifinal appearances, in '03 and '06.

Kulbacki hit his third home run of the season in the seventh for Kutztown (42-15), who was playing in its fifth national tournament since 2001. The senior drove in both runs and finished a triple short of the cycle.

"As a senior, I just kind of looked at this like my last game possibly, I just wanted to leave it on the field," said Kulbacki, who drew a walk against Maloney in the 12th inning of Game 1. "My mentality behind tonight was, 'This kid didn't beat me before and he's not going to tonight.' Luckily he was pitching me inside and I'm a pull hitter."

The Bears put two more runners on with one out in the ninth, but closer Rob Nicholas came in and got the next two batters to record his 10th save.

Note: The first Frankin Pierce-Kutztown game (9 hours, 13 minutes) was the fourth longest non-suspended game in NCAA history, according to Philip J. Lowry, the author of Baseball's Longest Games: A Comprehensive Worldwide Record Book. Only West Virginia State-Ohio Valley (12:01), Tulane-Alabama (10:50) and Harvard-Delaware (10:02) took longer to complete.