May 25, 2010

By Harold Gutmann
Special to

CARY, N.C. - Mike Adams' first two pitches to Minnesota State's Matt Kuchenbecker were well off the plate, causing Franklin Pierce coach Jayson King to decide to bring in his closer. But as King went to the mound to take Adams out, he was stopped by third-base umpire Jason Blackburn.

King had already gone to the mound once that at-bat, and an NCAA rule prohibited him from going to the mound again until the at-bat was over.

"I knew I was coming out, but the umpire said no, I have to finish this batter, so I just kept repeating that in my head, 'I have to finish this batter, I have to finish this batter,'" Adams said.

With Kuchenbecker representing the tying run, Adams battled back to a full count and then got a harmless fly to center, giving Franklin Pierce a 6-2 win in a Division II baseball tournament loser's bracket game at the USAB National Training Complex.

The 13th-ranked Ravens (42-16-1) will play again Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a trip to the semifinals on the line. Their opponent will be the loser of Tuesday night's game between No. 6 Kutztown and No. 9 Southern Indiana.

No. 11 Minnesota State (44-16), which was in the tournament for the first time in 24 years, was the second team eliminated, following No. 2 Tampa.

Adams (7-1), a graduate student who grew a mustache for the playoffs, allowed six hits and one walk while throwing 126 pitches, including 83 strikes.

Even before his coach was prohibited from taking him out - the dream of many starters - there was a sign an inning earlier that this was going to be Adams' day. With a runner on first and no outs, Zach Rowles drilled a ball up the middle that Adams stabbed behind his back to start a double play.

"I've been practicing that since I was 12-years-old and I've always missed it," Adams said. "I seriously have dreams about making that play."

Two days after Franklin Pierce scored just one run in 12 innings against Kutztown, Derek Ingui went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs and Phil Hendricks went 3 for 4 with an RBI double to lead the Ravens offense.

Ingui's home run - a two-run shot in the fourth off Patrick Lenton (9-4) that tied the game - was only the second homer through seven games of the national finals. It was also the catalyst for six unanswered runs from the Ravens. "(Lenton) was right around the strike zone all day so I was just trying to be aggressive early in the count," Ingui said. "It was 1-1 and the pitch right before that was pretty much down the middle and I just missed it, so I was geared up and he left another one over the plate and I put a good swing on it."

Both teams needed to bounce back from tough opening-round losses on a marathon Sunday. Franklin Pierce needed nine hours and 11 minutes to complete its 2-1 loss to Kutztown, which saw the Ravens strand the potential winning run on second base in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings.

"It was definitely a difficult loss," Ingui said. "What made it really bad was we felt we had so many opportunities to win it, but that night you think about it a little bit but the next day you have to wake up and treat it as a new day and get ready to battle, because nobody wants to go home 0-2."

Minnesota State, which played immediately afterward on Sunday, scored five runs in the ninth and had the winning run at the plate, but fell to Southern Indiana 8-6 at 2:29 a.m.

Fortunately, Tuesday's game took a tidy two hours and 21 minutes and ended at 5:22 p.m.

Mavericks coach Matt Magers didn't use their earlier late night as an excuse.

"A lot of these guys probably do their best work after 10:30, 11:00 at night," Magers said. "I was glad for the decision by the NCAA to allow us to play late at night. We were fortunate to have that day off and we came out with a lot of energy."

Sure enough, the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead when Danny Miller singled and came around to score in the second and fourth innings. Miller, who went 3-for-4, ended with half his team's hits.

Minnesota State looked on the verge of another ninth-inning comeback as Adams quickly lost control. The righty, who had hit only four batters in 66 innings, walked Aaron Berner and hit two Mavericks to lead the bases.

"I wanted to finish this one, and maybe I got a little nervous trying to be too fine with my pitches," Adams said.

But with some help from the rulebook, Adams got out of the jam, earning the first win for the Ravens in their last three appearances in the National Championship tournament.

"You want to go out there to make a pitching change, you just caught up in the moment a little bit," King said. "The game we lost on Sunday was a real difficult loss in many ways, but it feels real good to win this game. We love it down here, and none of the players, coaches or family members want to go home."