May 25, 2009

CARY, N.C. - Caleb Williamson went 4-for-4 and his two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the third put Emporia State ahead to stay as the nationally third-ranked Hornets remained unbeaten with a 5-2 victory over No. 6 Mesa State in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals Monday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Ben Graham struck out six and allowed only four hits in 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Emporia State advances to the winners' bracket final Thursday at 3 p.m. Mesa State takes on Belmont Abbey Wednesday at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. Belmont Abbey stayed alive with a 5-4 victory over Grand Valley State earlier Monday.

Emporia State (48-13) took an early lead as Conner Crumbliss drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Kenny Burkhead singled through the right side and Crumbliss slid around the tag to put the Hornets on top 1-0.

Mesa State (44-14) answered with a pair of runs in the top of the second. Craig Lanzarotta led off with a single and Marty Rover drew a one-out walk. Kevin Becker drove in both runners with a two-out double down the left field line to give the Mavericks their first lead at 2-1.

Graham (8-3) took over for starter Tyler Applehans after Becker's double. A walk loaded the bases, but Graham ended Mesa State's threat with a strikeout. Graham retired six of the next seven batters and overcame Becker's two-out triple in the fourth with a strikeout.

Emporia State took advantage of another leadoff walk in the third as Andy Cotton drew the bases on balls and went to second on a sacrifice. After Burkhead walked with two outs, Williamson followed with a two-run double to the gap in left-center as the Hornets regained the lead. Jacob White added an rbi-double in the fourth to extend the lead to 4-2.

Back-to-back one-out singles by Burkhead and Williamson led to another Emporia State run in the eighth. Burkhead advanced to third on a fly out to right and scored on Mike Sharp's single to left.

Emporia State had opportunities to extend the lead, but Mesa State turned three double plays to stay within striking range. Both teams were in double digits in runners left on base as Emporia State stranded 10 runners and Mesa State left 12 on base.

Mesa State threatened in the sixth and seventh innings, but Graham escaped trouble both times. A hit batsman and an error on a sacrifice attempt gave the Mavericks runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the sixth. Graham defused the rally with a strikeout, a foul out and a groundout. Mesa State had two runners on base in the seventh, but the threat ended on a force at second.

Graham retired the side in order in the eighth and closer Diego Soto struck out two batters in the ninth for his 12th save of the season and his second in as many games at the National Finals.

Emporia State, which is in "Bracket One," will face the losers' bracket survivor in Thursday's contest. The Hornets are one win away from advancing to the national championship game for the first time in school history.

Mesa State's game against Belmont Abbey is a rematch of Saturday's tournament opener. The Mavericks defeated Belmont Abbey 7-2.