APPLETON, Wis. – St. Thomas (Minn.) stayed alive in the NCAA Division III Championship Tuesday by rallying to defeat SUNY Cortland 7-6 in an elimination game, but not without a ninth-inning scare.
It was the 10th comeback victory of the season for the Tommies (41-9), who advance to a Wednesday elimination game against either Wheaton (Mass.) or Marietta, which will play later Tuesday.
St. Thomas will face Marietta at Noon ET, with the winner facing Wheaton (Mass.) for the national championship.
UST, which ripped 12 hits, reached 41 wins, which is the second most in school history and one off the season record set in 1999.
Mark Dominik started for the Tommies and picked up his third win of the season in four starts. He gave up four runs — all in the fifth — as they fell behind 4-2 but tied the score in the fifth, went ahead 6-4 in the sixth and added a final run in the eighth.
Cortland built a rally in the ninth against Steve Maher, who entered the game as a reliever in the eighth. The Red Dragons singled, walked and singled with none out to narrow the deficit to 7-5 and put the tying runs on base. A huge 643 double-play brought in the sixth run but moved UST one out away for the victory, which Maher secured with a game-ending strike out.
St. Thomas scored single runs in the first and second innings, the courtesy of a passed ball and wild pitch, to take a 2-0 lead. Jack Hogan blasted a lead-off double off the left-field fence, moved to third on fly ball and scored on a passed ball, and Dan Reichert singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out Sam Miller single.
Dominik held off Cortland until the fifth, when the Red Dragons broke through for four runs on a double, single, walk and back-to-back triples, but the Tommies tied the game in the bottom half. Tim Kuzniar singled and later scored on a Dylan Thomas sacrifice fly, and Nick Reichert doubled in Charles Brucchu, who had singled.
St. Thomas went ahead 6-4 with two more runs in the sixth. Dan Reichert led off with a single and was forced at second on a grounder by pinch hitter Justin Novak, but the Tommies then executed a perfect hit-and-run play. Novak broke for second, the second baseman moved over to cover the bag and Jon Kinsel hit a single behind him to right. Novak moved to third, scored on Hogan’s sacrifice fly and Kuzniar doubled in Kinsel.
Mark Ulrich relieved Dominik to start the seventh and set down five consecutive hitters before issuing a two-out walk in the eighth. Coach Chris Olean pulled Ulrich and brought in Maher, normally a starter and the staff ace with a 13-1 record, to relieve. He walked a pinch-hitter on the fourth consecutive 3-2 count to a Cortland hitter before getting an inning-inning strikeout.
The Tommies scored their final run in the eighth, and that proved to be the game winner. Kinsel singled and later came in as Bruchu hustled to first to barely beat a potential inning-ending double-play grounder.
Then it was on to the ninth and a little more drama before Maher sealed the win with a strikeout.
This marks the fifth time in five College World Series trips that St. Thomas will play on the final day with a top-three finish assured.