CARY, N.C. -- Junior Garrett Woodward scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field off the bat of Kevan Elcock in the bottom of the ninth, providing the game-winning run for Colorado Mesa in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory against top-ranked Tampa in the semifinal round of the 2014 NCAA Division II national finals on Friday at USA Baseball National Training Complex. The national finals are co-hosted by Mount Olive and the town of Cary.
The victory advanced the Mavericks to their first appearance in the championship game, scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Colorado Mesa will take on the winner of Friday's second semifinal between Minnesota State-Mankato and Southern Indiana.
Colorado Mesa (47-12) trailed Tampa (54-4) 2-0, but scored single runs in each of the last three innings to deny the Spartans a shot at their second consecutive national title. Two of the three runs for the Mavericks were unearned, including the game winner.
The Mavericks managed just two hits off Tampa starter David Heintz in the game's first six innings, and started the seventh with an out as well. However, Nate Robertson reached on a fielding error by the Tampa catcher, and pinch-hitter Roman Chavez drew a walk. Two batters later, Woodward ripped a single to left to score Robertson and cut the CMU deficit to 2-1.
Tampa brought in closer Kevin McNorton for his fifth appearance of the Finals, hoping the senior right-hander could protect the lead and earn his third save of the championship.McNorton (7-2) collected the final out of the seventh and the first two outs of the eighth before Garrett Carpenter doubled to right. The Spartans intentionally walked the national player of the year, Austin Kaiser, but Robertson followed with an RBI single down the left field line to tie the game at 2-all. The Mavericks threatened to take the lead when Chavez singled down the left field line as well, but Tampa left fielder Michael Danner gunned down Kaiser at the plate to preserve the tie.
Colorado Mesa's fourth reliever of the day, Tyler Ehlers (2-0), who entered the game in the top of the seventh, retired all seven batters he faced in the game, including the side in the Tampa ninth.
McNorton retired the first batter of the CMU ninth on a groundout, but Woodward delivered his third hit of the game on a single to shortstop. Austin Wallingford then hit a potential double-play grounder to short, but instead the Tampa shortstop threw wide of the bag at second.
The Spartans removed their left fielder and brought in a fifth infielder to try and stop any grounder from driving in the winning run. McNorton got a fly ball to very shallow right field – less than 10 steps off the infield – and right fielder Zach Gawrych made a one-hop throw to the plate that beat Woodward there by two or three steps. However, the Tampa catcher could not come up with the ball, and Woodward slid in with the game-winning run.
Before the Colorado Mesa rally, Tampa had enjoyed the lead since the third inning, when Connor Obrochta produced a leadoff double to left, moved to third on Orlando Rivera's sacrifice bunt and scored on a fielding error by the Mavericks' pitcher.
The Spartans increased their advantage to 2-0 in the top of the sixth after Sean O'Brien walked with one out and Danner followed with an RBI triple into the right-centerfield gap.
Colorado Mesa starter Joey Danner went six innings, giving up five hits, walking one and striking out one.
The five Tampa hits came from five different players. Woodward was the only player with more than one hit for Colorado Mesa, which collected seven hits in the contest.