St. Edward's staves off Grand Canyon 9-5 in NCAA elimination game
CARY, N.C. -- St. Edward’s built a seven-run lead in the first two innings and closer A.J. Rataic shut the door on a comeback attempt as the Hilltoppers defeated Grand Canyon 9-5 in an elimination game in the 2013 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship on Sunday co-hosted by Town of Cary and Mount Olive at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
With the win, St. Edward’s (44-17) takes on unbeaten Minnesota State on Thursday. After winning its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament elimination game Tuesday, Grand Canyon (40-19) is eliminated from the championship.
St. Edward’s jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Nate Bobrowski’s RBI single and Wes Koenig’s pinch-hit two-run single. Hilltopper pitcher Brad Nasis, who started in Tuesday’s loss against Tampa, was listed as designated hitter on the original starting lineup as a substitution strategy. The left-handed-hitting Koenig was brought in against Grand Canyon right-hander Coley Burns (7-3).
A throwing error on Kevin Mayo’s sacrifice attempt ignited a four-run second inning for St. Edward’s. Ransom LaLonde added a bases-loaded bloop single to shallow right-center and C.J. Manning capped the inning with a two-run single through the left side to extend the Hilltoppers’ lead to 7-0.
Grand Canyon reliever Trent Wilson took over with one out in the second and got a double play ball to end the inning. Wilson went four innings and held St. Edward’s to one run, striking out three. Brandon Bonilla struck out three in 1.1 innings to help slow down the Hilltoppers.
The Antelopes got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth as Brandon Smith doubled in a run with nobody out after Michael Pomeroy and Derek Mendoza led off the inning with singles. But St. Edward’s starter Collin Sherrod (6-1) retired the side on two groundouts and a flyout.
Pomeroy singled in a run in the top of the fifth for Grand Canyon, but St. Edward’s answered in the bottom of the fifth on A.J. Hermanson’s RBI single to give the Hilltoppers an 8-2 lead.
Grand Canyon threatened in the top of the sixth as the Antelopes sandwiched singles by Steven Swingle and Kyle Raidy around a fielding error to load the bases. After a visit to the mound, Sherrod stayed in the game and Sherrod ended the rally with a groundout to first.
Grand Canyon clawed back into the game with three runs in top of the seventh as Paul Panaccione drew a leadoff walk and Pomeroy singled. After a pitching change, back-to-back walks brought in a run. Rataic took over and Charles Wagner greeted him with an RBI single. Chris Lindmark drove in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to pull the Antelopes within 8-5.
St. Edward’s added an insurance run in the eighth and Rataic retired the side in order in the ninth after escaping a two-out jam in the eighth. Rataic earned his 11th save of the season.
Grand Canyon was outhit by only a 14-12 margin, but the Antelopes left 12 runners on base. Wednesday’s contest was the second meeting between the two teams in the national finals. St. Edward’s defeated Grand Canyon 1-0 Sunday in the opening round.
St. Edward’s needs to defeat Minnesota State both Thursday and Friday to advance to Saturday’s championship game.