May 26, 2010

Harold Gutmann
Special to

CARY, N.C. - Georgia College redshirt senior Brendon Malkowski walked up to podium, saw his name in black capital letters on the table and exclaimed, "Wow, this is cool."

"Welcome to the big time," Bobcats coach Tom Carty said.

Malkowski deserved all the attention on Wednesday. After starter Eric Pettepher was roughed up by No. 3 Central Missouri, Malkowski allowed just two hits over six innings and Georgia College's bats finally came alive at the Division II National Championships in a 9-4 win.

The fourth-ranked Bobcats (41-16) avoided elimination in the loser's bracket and advanced to the semifinals, where it will face No. 9 Southern Indiana Thursday at 3 p.m. This is only the second appearance in the national tournament for Georgia College, which was the runner-up 15 years ago.

With his team up 6-4, Malkowski started his outing in the fourth inning by striking out the side as Eric Cole, Steffon Williams and Cory Deedrick all swung past fastballs.

"The nerves were getting to me a little bit. It didn't show, luckily, but it gave me a little extra juice on the fastball," Malkowski said.

The Schenectady, N.Y. native, who throws between 88-91 miles per hour, finished with nine strikeouts - eight on fastballs - and no walks.

"Pitching with a lead, you just have to throw strikes and get ahead of batters, and then the pressure's on them and it's off my shoulders," said the righty, who improved to 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA. "I was able to keep pounding the fastball by them for the rest of the game and it worked out."

Meanwhile, after mustering just two hits in 11 innings against UC San Diego on Monday, the Bobcats recorded 10 hits and a tournament-high nine runs against eight Mules pitchers - including two home runs, matching the total number of balls hit out of the USA Baseball National Training Complex through the first eight games.

Richard Pirkle's two-run homer against Central Missouri starter Mitch Stubenhofer (3-1) broke a 4-4 tie in the third inning, while pinch hitter Andrew Evans homered in his only at bat at the national finals to lead off the sixth.

Pirkle's shot was his team-leading 17th of the season, while Evans hit his third for the Bobcats, who increased their school record-total to 79. The previous mark of 75 was set in 1985.

"Our pitchers have been picking us up for the last week and a half," Pirkle said. "It's just a matter of time before we picked them up."

Georgia College's top four hitters also had success. Shawn Ward went 2-for-2 with a double, a single and two sacrifice flies, Kyle Allen was 2-for-4 with a triple, Steve Muoio was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Sean Harrell - who is hitting .446 - singled, walked twice and hit two sacrifices in five plate appearances.

The Bobcats had scored only two runs in each of their first two games, a loss against No. 1 UC San Diego and a win against No. 2 Tampa.

"Maybe it was nerves, but it was just a matter of time before the offense gets going," Ward said. "It's been there all year and hopefully we can keep it going."

Central Missouri (52-11) scored on an RBI single by Nick DeBiasse, a suicide squeeze by Frank Specht and an RBI double from Tyler Ruch to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the third. But Georgia College responded immediately with four runs in the bottom half.

Allen started it with a standup triple and Pirkle ended it with a two-run homer.

"Momentum is one of the key factors in team sports, and for us to put up three or four after they took the lead (was huge)," Ward said.

With five teams remaining at the 2010 Division II National Championships, there is one certainty - someone is about to win its first title.

One day after five-time champion Tampa was the first team eliminated, they were joined by the Mules, who had won the national title in '94 and '03.

"I thought we probably didn't do enough competing at the plate to avoid the strikeouts, and we have to find a way to put balls in play," said Mules coach Tom Myers, who was an assistant on the '03 championship team. "But on the flip side it boils down to pitching and defense, and they did a great job of hitting every mistake our pitchers made."