Marietta rolls past Chapman
Top-ranked Etta Express roll to 20th consecutive victory
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- No. 1 Marietta rolled to its 20th consecutive win and second in a row to open the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship with a 9-4 victory against No. 9 Chapman on Saturday evening at Fox Cities Stadium.
Four-time national champion Marietta (44-3) advances to the winner's bracket final at 8 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the Keystone and Buena Vista game, which followed the Pioneers’ game Saturday night.
Junior All-American Austin Blaski held the Panthers (34-12) to a pair of unearned runs on four hits and struck out eight over seven innings to earn the win and improve to 11-2. Blaski had his streak of not giving up a run snapped at 26 innings but has not allowed an earned run in 31 consecutive frames.
Junior closer Kyle Lindquist finished with two strong innings to record his 12th save of the spring. The right-hander scattered two unearned runs on two hits and struck out three.
“I think Austin threw really well,” Head Coach Brian Brewer said. “To have four errors against a team like Chapman and still come out on top is quite surprising. The thing about our errors is that three of four were aggressive ones. We consider ourselves fortunate tonight that is for sure.”
Marietta, who out hit Chapman 12-6, struck first with two runs in its second at-bat. Junior All-American shortstop Tim Saunders reached on an infield single and sophomore right fielder Aaron Hopper hit a RBI triple to the right-center gap. Senior first baseman Casey Levens followed with a RBI ground out.
Chapman took advantage of a Pioneer miscue to plate an unearned run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third.
The Etta Express extended its advantage to 4-1 in the fifth. Junior second baseman Kirby Becker, who came to the plate with two on and two out, delivered a RBI single to right, which plated sophomore pinch runner Evan Brockmeier. The Panther outfielder tried to throw out Brockmeier at home, allowing Becker to make his way to second base. The catcher's ensuing throw found its way into center field, helping sophomore catcher Alex Toth cross with the second run of the play.
Chapman scored another unearned run off Blaski in the seventh, only for the Pioneers to get that run back with a Levens' sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth.
The Etta Express broke the game open with a four-run ninth. Becker delivered a two-run single with his third hit of the game, while Saunders, who had two hits, collected a RBI triple and Hopper drove in another run with his third hit of the day.
The Panthers scored two more unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth but the Pioneers prevailed 9-4.
“I think we are very confident right now,” Brewer said. “I think we scored a lot of runs in the last three or four innings of both ball games we played and I think that is what good teams do. We are in a good place.”