May 24, 2009

*Courtesy of Wooster Athletics

GRAND CHUTE, Wisc. - Behind a career-best performance from pitcher Matt DeGrand (Stow, Ohio / St. Vincent-St. Mary), The College of Wooster shut down the University of St. Thomas 3-0 Sunday night to continue its perfect run through the finals of the NCAA Div. III Baseball Championship, taking place at Time Warner Field at Fox Cities Stadium.

Wooster (42-9), now the lone unbeaten of the four remaining teams in the field, will next face Chapman University (32-16) on Monday at 3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, and the Fighting Scots have already assured themselves a spot in Tuesday's championship round. It will mark Chapman's third elimination game..

While Justin McDowell (Willard, Ohio / Willard) closed out the win, facing just one batter over the minimum over the eighth and ninth innings, DeGrand was the story of the game. He matched a career high by going seven innings, holding St. Thomas (36-14) to just three hits while striking out three without a walk. In fact, after giving up a one-out double in the first, DeGrand retired 15 Tommies in a row.

As DeGrand was putting up zeroes on the scoreboard, Wooster's offense struck for single runs in the fourth, fifth, and seventh. The fourth saw the Scots utilize three sharply-hit singles, starting with Stu Beath's (St. Louis, Mo. / Avon Old Farms - Conn.) one-out shot that glanced off the first baseman into right field. Matt Groezinger (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) followed by lining a ball into right for another single, and after a fielder's choice play, Zack Vesco (Pickerington, Ohio / St. Charles Prep) ripped an offering right back up the middle for a 1-0 lead.

In the fifth, Shane Swearingen (Hillard, Ohio / Bishop Watterson) drew a leadoff walk on five pitches, was sacrificed to second by John Warren (New Castle, Pa. / Union Area), and came home on a low liner off the bat of Sean Karpen (Venetia, Pa. / Peters Twp.) that was trapped by the centerfielder for a single.

The Scots put together a two-out rally during the seventh. Karpen walked, Luke Sutton (Galion, Ohio / Galion) found a hole through the right side for a single, and Beath then sliced a 3-2 pitch into the opposite field for an RBI base knock to left.

After DeGrand gave up single hits in the sixth and seventh, the Wooster coaching staff elected to go with McDowell, the winner of the opening game of the tournament on Friday morning. The only blemish for McDowell was a two-out bunt single in the eighth, as he recorded his second save of the season.

Offensively on the night, Karpen paced the Scots by reaching four times in five plate appearances with two singles, a double, and a walk, and he also stole two bases. Beath was 2-for-5 and Vesco went 2-for-3.

For St. Thomas, Dan Leslie was the tough-luck loser, yielding three runs in seven innings of work, while Tim Kahle had two of the team's four hits.