Wisconsin-Whitewater advances to national championship game
APPLETON, Wis. -- Wisconsin-Whitewater scored five of their 10 runs with two outs and used three strong pitching performances to defeat St. Thomas (Minn.) 10-4 Sunday to advance to the championship game of the NCAA Division III national finals at Fox Cities Stadium. UW-W (43-7) will take the day off Monday and will play against either St. Thomas, Emory or Southern Maine in the national championship game on Tuesday at noon ET.
The Tommies scored first after a frightening moment on the mound in the top of the fourth. Tim Kuzniar hit a line drive up the middle that glanced off the side of Brock Liston's head. After an extensive check by the training staff and coaches, Liston remained in the game. Perhaps shaken up by the incident, Liston gave up a single and a walk to the next two batters to load the bases. He followed with a balk and the Tommies took a 1-0 lead. Coach John Vodenlich lifted Liston from the game in favor of Connor Hurst and Hurst got the Warhawks out of the inning without any further damage.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fifth Michael Gonzalez gave the Warhawks the lead with a rare RBI on a hit by pitch. Jared Fon added two more to the lead with a single through the right side in the next at bat and the Warhawks led 4-1 after five.
Hurst remained strong on the rubber until the top of the eighth. After back-to-back walks, Hurst surrendered a double over leftfielder Trey Cannon's head and the Tommies plated one to cut the lead to 4-2. Austin Jones came on in relief with runners on second and third and gave up a sacrifice fly to deep center and the Warhawk lead shrunk to one. Jones got out of the inning in the next at bat to preserve the lead.
The timely hitting came in the eighth. Switch hitting Jared Fon led off from the left side of the plate and shot one up the middle against Tommie submariner Greg Clute. He moved to third on a single by Power and scored on fielder's choice by Trey Cannon to give UW-W a 5-3 lead. The Warhawks tacked on two more when Saturday's hero, Nick Kuhlmann, ripped a single up the middle with the bases loaded. Dylan Friend doubled to left center in the next at bat to score one more and Mikole Pierce followed with a sacrifice fly to plate UW-W's ninth run of the game. Gonzalez notched his second RBI of the game in the ensuing at bat singling up the middle to give the Warhawks a 10-3 lead heading into the ninth.
The Tommies added a run in the ninth but Jones slammed the door on the rally to preserve the Warhawk win. Hurst earned the win to improve to 6-2 and Jones got the save, his third of the year.
Dylan Friend went 4-for-5 in the game with two runs and one RBI to lead the Warhawks from the plate. Liston, Hurst and Jones combined to scatter eight hits while striking out four.
This will be UW-W's second appearance in the national championship game, its first coming in 2005 when it captured the program's lone national title.