May 31, 2010

By Bryan Rose
Special to

GRAND CHUTE, WIS. - Shawn Bailey hit a one-out double to right field to score the winning run as SUNY Cortland survived a rally from Illinois Wesleyan to stay alive in the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship Monday.

The Red Dragons (39-9-1) advanced to the final day of games for the second time in school history. In 2005, Cortland made it to the final day but lost to eventual champion the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

"It was fun," said Bailey about his game-winning hit. "It was a good spot to be in. It was something you dream about."

Illinois Wesleyan (30-21) opened the scoring with three runs in the first to take the 3-0 lead. But Cortland countered in their half of the inning, tying the game with three runs of their own on an Anderson Gardner three-run home run. Gardner led the Red Dragons from the plate, going 3-for-4 with four RBI and four runs scored.

The Titans again took the lead in the second as Kraig Ladd belted a solo shot to the opposite field. But in the bottom of the third, Cortland scored a run to tie the game.

Illinois Wesleyan had a chance to put some more runs on the board in the fourth inning, loading the bases with nobody out. But Cortland pitcher Kris Gentzke was able to work out of the jam and hold the Titans without a run. In the game, Illinois Wesleyan left 14 runners on base.

"We stranded a lot of runners," Titan second baseman Brett Moore said. "We could've had 13 or 14 runs. But even leaving those guys on base, we came out and swung the bats well. That's something we can take into the championship game."

The Red Dragons countered in their half of the fourth by scoring three runs to take the lead.

Cortland held a three-run lead going into the eighth inning, but Illinois Wesleyan scored two runs in the eighth and Kevin Sullivan tied the game in the top of the ninth with an RBI double to left center field.

John Zilnicki drew a walk and later stole second base, setting up Bailey for the game winning hit.

Brendan Hourihan earned the win for Cortland, throwing 1/3 of an inning in relief and retiring the only batter he faced. Gentzke threw 5 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and giving up seven runs while striking out one and walking two.

Moore led Illinois Wesleyan from the plate, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Jeff Grodecki went 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Cortland will face Linfield in the first game Tuesday at noon with the winner advancing to face Illinois Wesleyan in the championship game beginning at 3:30 p.m.

In the first match up between Linfield and Cortland, Linfield won the game, 25-11.

"Our focus is on a great opponent tomorrow," Cortland coach Joe Brown said. "It's not often you get a second chance at an opponent. It's going to be a big test." Illinois Wesleyan coach Dennis Martel said his team will be ready to face whichever team comes out the first game.

"We are going to let them tire each other out," Martel said. "We are going to have our No. 1 (pitcher) ready and our kids will be ready to play."