Top-ranked Linfield hangs on for 8-6 win against Ithaca in its opening game
APPLETON, Wis. -- Ithaca's late rally fell just short in an 8-6 loss to No. 1 Linfield in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship at Fox Cities Stadium. The Bombers trailed 7-0 before scoring six times in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Ithaca, which entered the game ranked seventh nationally, had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth when the Linfield centerfielder made a running, lunging catch to end the threat and erase what could have been a game-tying single. Ithaca (38-7) faces Milsaps in an elimination game Saturday morning. Linfield (39-7) will take on Southern Maine in a winner's bracket game Saturday evening.
In a pitching matchup between two American Baseball Coaches Association First Team All-Americans, Linfield's Chris Haddeland started the game and allowed just two hits over six scoreless innings before the Bombers broke through with two runs in the seventh. Ithaca scored twice on six singles in the seventh, which broke a stretch of 29 scoreless innings for the Linfield ace. That chased Haddeland, who earned the victory to improve to 14-1 on the season. He allowed eight hits in seven innings and had five strikeouts. Both runs were earned.
Ithaca's seventh-inning rally included singles from Tim Henry, Colby Gee, Corey Caswell, Max Addy, Matt Connolly and Luke Stark. Gee scored on Addy's hit and Caswell scored on Stark's single.
The Bombers added three runs in the eighth on four hits and the rally was aided by two Linfield errors. Tim Locastro singled and later scored on a hit by Henry. Linfield turned a double play, the Wildcats' second of the game, to end the Bomber rally with the bases loaded. Linfield ranked in the top-five nationally in double plays turned during the season.
Ithaca fought back again in the ninth. Christian Brown reached on an error to start the rally and Locastro followed with a double. After Henry was hit by a pitch, Gee delivered a sacrifice fly to bring Ithaca to within two. Another single by Caswell loaded the bases, but Addy struck out and Connolly hit a line drive to the left-center field gap where Linfield centerfielder Kramer Lindell made a running catch to preserve the victory.
Ithaca's All-America pitcher Pat Lemmo took the loss (11-2). He was charged with five runs, all earned, over five innings. He allowed nine hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Matt Colbert worked two innings in relief, and Brandon Diorio and Chris Anderson pitched the eighth and ninth innings.
Linfield scored once in the first on a sacrifice fly following a leadoff double and infield groundout that advanced the runner. The Wildcats' big inning came in the top of the third when Linfield scored four runs on four hits. The Wildcats added two insurance runs in the sixth and their eighth run came in the top of the eighth on a fly ball down the right field line that was called a home run despite replays showing the ball was foul.
Caswell led Ithaca with a 4-for-5 performance. Connolly was 3-for-5, and Locastro and Henry had two hits each. Only one of Ithaca's 14 hits went for extra bases, Locastro's double in the ninth.
This is Ithaca's 12th all-time appearance in the Division III Baseball Championship and the Bombers are now 21-21 in the championship tournament. It was the first playoff matchup between Ithaca and Linfield, and the same will be true in Saturday's game against Millsaps.