Minnesota St. secures third consecutive region title, returns to finals
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. -- Minnesota State defeated Emporia State, 6-3, for the second time this weekend to earn its third consecutive NCAA Central Region championship and fourth in the last five years on Sunday.
The Mavericks' (45-9) make their eighth appearance at the NCAA Division II College Championships. ESU's season came to an end with a 42-19 overall ledger.
For the second time in the regional tournament, Emporia State scored first against MSU as the Hornets drew a bases loaded, one-out walk in the bottom of the second inning to jump in front by a run.
Minnesota State responded with a trio of runs in the top of the fourth frame. Parker Sullivan banged a leadoff single into left field before advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt and fielder's choice. Nolan Johnson followed with a RBI infield single to the ESU second baseman, and Stetson Olson backed that up with a two-run blast over the fence in right field for his 13th round-tripper of the season, tied for fourth in MSU single-season history. The Hornets capitalized on the sixth Maverick walk of the afternoon in the bottom of the inning as Wade Hanna drew a base on balls and scored two batters later when Todd Schultz tagged a double off the base of the fence in left-center field trimming the MSU lead to 3-2.
The Mavericks padded the lead in the top of the sixth when Sullivan legged out an infield single with the bases loaded scoring Olson, before an ESU throwing error at first plated Taylor Branstad from second base stretching the cushion to three runs.
Dean Long brought the Hornets within two in the bottom of the seventh driving an RBI single into right field. However, the Purple and Gold answered right back in the top of the eighth when Sullivan belted a double to the gap in right-center field scoring Kevin Kramer, who pinch ran for Mike Andries.
Matt Geislinger took the hill for the Mavericks in the bottom of the ninth and fanned two Hornets in a perfect frame to secure the 6-3 win and regional championship.
Josh Matheson (2-1) struck out three with one hit and earned run over 4.2 innings of work, while Taylor Nawrocki scattered two hits and two earned runs over 3.1 innings pitched.
Olson ended 1-of-4 with a home run, two runs and two RBI while being named NCAA Central Region Tournament MVP.