May 29, 2009

Courtesy of Lynn Athletics

CARY, N.C. – Not even a three hour rain delay could keep Lynn University’s baseball team from its destiny of playing in the NCAA Division II National Championship.  With the first pitch coming at 11:15 p.m. rather than its slated 7 p.m. start, the Fighting Knights outlasted Belmont Abbey 7-5 and will face Emporia State on Saturday at noon for the College World Series title.

“Our guys did a great job of picking each other up and that’s been our thing the entire season,” said head coach Rudy Garbalosa.  “When one guy hasn’t had a great day, the team picks him up and that is how we got to where we are today.  It’s really rewarding to see this type of team work and exciting to be a part of team that has gotten to the national championship game.”

Sam Jones, Justin Figart and Tommy Kahnle allowed one hit in eight innings of relief and retired the last 13 batters of the game to clinch the victory.  The middle of the Blue & White lineup went 3-for-9 and drove in six of the team’s seven runs.

“Jones and Figart both came in and had their best outings of the season,” Garbalosa said.  “Sam is a guy that usually goes 20-25 pitches and is a spot guy but tonight he went 70 pitches and had the longest outing of his career.  Then Figart came in and took us to the eighth and our game plan was to get to the eighth and give the ball to Tommy [Kahnle] and let him close it out.”

Belmont Abbey (40-26) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after LU starter Daniel Rouah gave two free passes and surrendered two run scoring hits.  Lynn responded with three runs in the home half.  Douglas Toro led off with a double to left center and a Daniel Flores bean ball put runners on the corners.  Gabe MacDougall drove them both home when he smacked a two-run double to right center field, tying the game at two.  A wild pitch by Crusaders starter Steven Thiele put the Knights on top 3-2.

Unfortunately for Lynn, Rouah could not make it out of the second as he loaded the bases on the first three batters.  Jones came in and got two ground balls and a strikeout, holding the Abbey to two runs.  The converted pitcher then held the Crusaders scoreless until a two-out RBI single in the fifth by Spencer Sobol.

“When I was on the mound and just put myself in the frame of mind to throw strikes and get outs,” said Jones.

Lynn regained the lead in the third, scoring a pair of runs to go up 5-4.  MacDougall launched his 21st double of the season with a shot off the left field fence, plating Toro, and Chavez followed with a sacrifice fly to left field, getting Einar Atencio across home.

Momentum appeared to swing into Belmont Abbey’s favor in the fifth with the run scoring single by Spencer but Atencio turned the tides with an all-out hustle play in the bottom of the inning.  With one out, the junior third baseman hit a high fly ball that dropped in between the short stop and center fielder.  Atencio burst with speed out of the box and slide head first under the tag at second to put a runner in scoring position. He would be able to stroll across the base path when Flores turned on a pitch by Evan Jonas, sending it over the fence in right center field for the eventual game-winning two-run home run.

“I’m seeing the ball really well right now,” Flores said.  “I noticed the count was in my favor, the pitcher threw a change-up and I got my hands out in front of it and took it over the right center field fence.”

After Figart held the Crusaders without a hit for two innings, Kahnle closed the door for his fourth save of the postseason.  The freshman hurler struck out two in the ninth before getting Justin Vasquez to ground out weakly to third base to end the game.

The Fighting Knights have defeated seven consecutive nationally ranked opponents and are 23-6 on the season against teams ranked in the top-25.

In addition to following the game live at, fans can watch the game live at CBS College Sports.