CARY, N.C. -- Consecutive hits by Weston Lawing, Graham Ramos and Colby Painter to lead off the bottom of the seventh put Lander University ahead to stay as the nationally third-ranked Bearcats defeated No. 5 Chico State 6-4 in the first round of the NCAA Division II national finals on Saturday at USA Baseball National Training Complex.The national finals are hosted by Mount Olive and the Town of Cary.
Lander (52-7) trailed 4-3 when Lawing drove the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh inning off the top of the wall in left field for his second double of the game and 23rd of the season. Ramos followed with a single, his third hit of the game, to bring home Lawing, who scored three of the Bearcats’ first four runs. Ramos came home with the go-ahead run on Painter’s triple to right-center. Painter scored an insurance run on a fielder’s choice.
Lander reliever Taylor Alvarez (10-2) retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth and opened the ninth with a strikeout before running into trouble. Chico State pinch-hitter Dylan Garcia was hit by a pitch and after closer Brandon White took over on the mound, an interference call on Ryne Clark’s hit-and-run single gave the Wildcats runners on the corners. White struck out the next batter and sealed the win on a flyout to right for his 12th save of the season.
The Bearcats took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth without benefit of a hit, capitalizing on three hit batsmen – one with the bases loaded – two walks and a sacrifice fly. Lander left the bases loaded for the second consecutive inning after Chico State starter Marcos Lara got an infield popup to end the inning. In the previous inning, Mara got a strikeout and a foul out behind the plate after Lander loaded the bases with one out.The two teams exchanged runs in the fifth and Chico State (43-14) tied the game with two runs in the top of the sixth. Peter Miller was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Ryan McClellan followed with a double. Tyler Madrid singled to right-center as McClellan scored right behind Miller to tie the game 3-3. The Wildcats were denied a chance for more runs in the inning when second baseman Ramos caught a line drive and flipped to short for an inning-ending double play.
Chico State took its first lead of the game in the top of the seventh, turning an almost certain out into a go-ahead run. Cody Slader led off with a single, stole second and went to third on Clark’s sacrifice. Slader broke for home when Eric Angerer hit a high chopper up the middle, but Alvarez snagged the ball and threw to third. Slader had fallen trying to change direction, then started heading to home after the throw to third. The Lander third baseman gave chase and reached for the tag, but Slade slid into home safely to give the Wildcats a brief lead.
With the win, Lander will play a winner’s bracket game Monday at 5 p.m. ET against Southern Indiana, a 4-3 winner against defending national Tampa earlier Saturday. Chico State faces Tampa Monday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.