Colorado Mesa opens national finals with 10th-inning walk-off win
CARY, N.C. -- In his lone at-bat of the game, Trevor Elcock led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a double and scored the winning run on an errant throw off a bunt single as nationally fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa outlasted No. 8 St. Thomas Aquinas 5-4 in the first round of the NCAA Division II national finals on Sunday at USA Baseball National Training Complex. The national finals are hosted by Mount Olive and the Town of Cary.
Colorado Mesa (45-11) broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth as Nate Robertson doubled with two outs and came home on Jordan Liester's single through the left side. The Mavericks had rallied from an early two-run deficit.
St. Thomas Aquinas (38-17) answered with a two-out rally of its own in the top of the ninth. Rich Baerga walked on four pitches after the first two Spartans were retired and advanced to third on Kenny Kirshner's single to right. Derek Hirsch lined a single to center to drive in Baerga and tie the game 4-4.
Colorado Mesa appeared to be headed to victory in the bottom of the ninth after loading the bases with nobody out. Austin Walingford and Kevan Elcock led off the inning with consecutive singles. St. Thomas Aquinas first baseman Kirshner charged the line on Sergio Valenzuela's bunt and his throw to third was on time for a force at third, but the ball was muffed and everyone was safe.
With the 2-3-4 batters coming up, Spartan relief pitcher C.J. Ferriggi (2-2) got a foul popout at third for the first out and Kirshner got a force out at home for the second out. Ferriggi got out of the jam on a flyout to shallow left.
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Trevor Elcock, who entered the game defensively in left field in the top of the ninth after Carpenter moved from left to pitch, lined a double to left field. Derrick Garcia bunted to third and the throw to first went wide, allowing Elcock to score the winning run.
Making its first national finals appearance, St. Thomas Aquinas wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as the Spartans struck for two runs in the top of the first.
Baerga and Kirshner led off the game with back-to-back singles and the two runners advanced on a double steal. Baerga scored on Hirsch's rbi-groundout and Kirshner came home on Stanley Susana's infield single to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
St. Thomas Aquinas starter Robert Frank retired the side in order in each of the first two innings before Garrett Woodward led off the bottom of the third for Colorado Mesa with a single to right. After an infield error and a sacrifice moved runners to second and third, Carpenter's single up the middle drove in both runners as the Mavericks tied the game 2-2.
Colorado Mesa took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth as Austin Kaiser and Nate Robertson led off with back-to-back bunt singles. Kaiser's bunt single came one pitch after just missing a home run down the left field line. The runners executed a double steal and Kaiser scored when the throw to third went into the outfield to give the Mavericks a 3-2 lead. Frank struck out the side to end the inning.
Colorado Mesa advances to a winner's bracket game Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET against Seton Hill, a 4-2 winner Sunday against Minnesota State-Mankato.