CARY, N.C. – Ross Whitley allowed only one hit through six innings and Catawba withstood a ninth-inning rally as the Indians defeated St. Mary’s (Texas) 5-4 in an elimination game in the 2012 NCAA tournament on Thursday. Each of Catawba’s three games in the tournament has been decided by a single run. The national championships are co-hosted by the Town of Cary and Mount Olive College.
Catawba (45-16) faces West Chester. St. Mary’s (49-11) is eliminated from the tournament.
Whitley (8-3) retired 15 of 17 batters after allowing a second inning single, but hit the first three batters in the top of the seventh to load the bases with nobody out. Craig Brooks came in for relief and retired the first two batters on a strikeout and a pop out to short. Leadoff batter Billy Richard drew a four-pitch walk to bring in a run, but Brooks got another strikeout to end the inning.
St. Mary’s threatened again in the eighth as M.P. Cokinos led off with a walk and Brandon Bates was hit by a pitch with one out. Brooks got out of trouble with a strikeout and a foul out.
The Rattlers brought the tying run to the plate with nobody out in the top of the ninth as Josh McElroy walked and Mario Maldonado followed with a double. John Tuttle relieved Brooks and got Catawba within one out of advancing, retiring the first two batters he faced on a strikeout and a groundout to first. McElroy beat the throw to the plate to pull St. Mary’s within 5-3.
Cokinos kept the Rattlers alive with a single to right to drive in Maldonado and make it a one-run game. Tuttle got a game-ending strikeout to seal the win and record his third save of the season.
Catawba took advantage of back-to-back one-out walks to put runners on first and second in the bottom of the first. Garrett Furr drilled the first pitch he saw over the St. Mary’s centerfielder for a triple to drive in Ryan Bostian and Ethan Satterfield with the first two runs of the game. Furr came home on Julio Zubillaga’s groundout to short to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Zubillaga has driven in at least one run in six of Catawba’s first seven NCAA tournament games.
St. Mary’s put runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the second as Bates drew a leadoff walk and Esteban Raygoza singled up the middle. Both runners advanced on Tyler Migl’s sacrifice and Bates scored on Ivan Sigala’s sacrifice fly to pull the Rattlers within 3-1.
The Indians got the run back in the bottom of the second as Cameron Beard led off with a single and scored from first on Chris Dula’s one-out double. Dula advanced to third on the throw home and Bostian was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners. St. Mary’s starter Sky Severns prevented further damage on a groundout to third and a strikeout.
Catawba threatened again in the third on a hit batsman and a walk with nobody out, chasing Severns. Kyle Bumpas came in for relief for St. Mary’s and retired the side on a pair of flyouts and a strikeout.
Zubillaga led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to the right-center gap, but Bumpas struck out the next two batters looking. Bumpas was ahead two strikes to Keith Hawks before Hawks looped a 1-2 pitch to shallow right-center to bring in Zubillaga and extend Catawba’s lead to 5-1.
St. Mary’s was making its second National Finals appearance in school history. The Rattler’s won the national championship in 2001, the school’s first year in NCAA Division II.
Including the Southeast Regional, Catawba won its fifth consecutive elimination game. If the Indians defeat tournament unbeaten West Chester Thursday, the two teams will play again Friday, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s Championship Game.