St. Edward's championship debut ends in its favor with 1-0 defeat of GCU
CARY, N.C. –- Brannon Easterling pitched a six-hit shutout and St. Edward’s scored the lone run of the game on a double steal in the fourth inning as the nationally fourth-ranked Hilltoppers defeated No. 7 Grand Canyon 1-0 in a match-up of two teams making their finals debuts in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship Sunday at Cary, N.C.
Easterling (14-3) moved into a tie for first in the nation in wins, while tossing his nation-leading 14th complete game of the season. After retiring the side in order in the bottom of the first, he hit two batters and allowed at least one baserunner in each of the next five innings. He stranded two Grand Canyon runners in the second and third innings and St. Edward’s catcher C.J. Manning threw a runner out attempting to steal second in the fifth inning.
St. Edward’s (42-16) provided Easterling with all the run support he needed in the top of the fourth. The Hilltoppers put runners on the corners on Cutter Runte’s leadoff single and Nate Bobrowski’s walk after a sacrifice and a groundout. After Bobrowski broke for second and got himself caught in a rundown, Runte took off from third and beat the throw to the plate.
Grand Canyon (39-17) had its best scoring chance in the bottom of the sixth as Michael Pomeroy led off with a single to left and went to second on Derek Mendoza’s sacrifice. One out later, Steven Swingle singled to right and Pomeroy was waved around third. But Hilltopper right fielder Joe Pirozzolo’s throw beat Pomeroy to the plate to keep the Antelopes off the scoreboard.
Easterling allowed only one baserunner in the final three innings, retiring the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings on only seven pitches in each inning. He issued his only walk of the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before ending the game on a called strike three, his second strikeout of the inning and seventh of the game.
Grand Canyon starter Andrew Naderer (9-3) took the hard luck complete game loss. Naderer also struck out seven and finished with a five-hitter.
Sunday’s contest marked the first championship meeting between two first-timers since 2009 – the first year the championship was in Cary – when Mesa State (now Colorado-Mesa) faced Belmont Abbey.
This year’s tournament also marks the first time in NCAA DII Championship history that two games ended in 1-0 results. Franklin Pierce defeated Shippensburg 1-0 Saturday. Three of the first four games in this year’s tournament have been shutouts.