CARY, N.C. -- Catawba opened its 2015 NCAA II national finals with a 3-2 victory against Wilmington (Del.) on Saturday night at the USA National Training Complex. The Catawba Indians improve to 45-13 and will next play Henderson State at 7 p.m. ET Monday. The Wildcats fall to 37-14 and will face Angelo State in an elimination game at 3 p.m. ET Monday.
Shaefer Shepard earned his 11th win, while Craig Brooks grabbed the save and set a school record for strikeouts in a season to lead the Indians. Brooks also collected three hits at the plate and drove home a run.
Catawba produced three of its six hits in the opening frame. Luke Setzer pulled a one-out double down the left field line and Will Albertson followed with a single down the right field line. A groundout by T.J. Wharton produced the game’s first run and Brooks doubled with two outs to get Albertson home.
Shepard set the tone on the mound in the first with three groundouts. He allowed a leadoff home run to Sam Goines in the second before retiring four in a row. An error and hit batter put two Wildcat runners on in the third. Shepard got out of the inning and sat down the side in the fourth.
Catawba answered the Wilmington run in its fourth. Wharton walked and Brooks singled to start the inning. Chance Bowden singled with one out to load the bases and Kyle Smith plated the run on a sacrifice fly. The Indians would leave the bases loaded as Jamie Treml worked out of a potential big inning for Catawba.
The first two Wilmington batters walked to start the sixth and Ryan McClintock came on to get an out on a sacrifice and another on a groundout by Christian Adorno to pull the Wildcats within 3-2. Michael Elwell got the final out of the frame on a groundout to first to stand the tying run at third.
Treml kept the Catawba bats quiet after the run in the fourth with three scoreless frames where the only base runner that reached was on a walk. Two one-out walks by Wilmington in the seventh was the last chance for the Wildcats. After a sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position, Bryan Blanton got a fly out to end the threat.
Brooks came on in the eighth and threw two perfect innings of relief to notch his second save of the year. He struck out three to raise his total to 150 on the year, surpassing the mark he shared entering the game with Brian Boltz.
Shepard improved to 11-3 with his five innings of work. He allowed just two hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The sophomore becomes just the fourth Catawba pitcher to reach 11 wins in a season, equaling Robbie Green, who posted 11 wins in 2000. Tim Smith holds the record with 13 victories in 2006, while Brooks had 12 wins last season.
Brooks led Catawba at the plate against Wilmington with three hits. Goines and Frank Samluk had the hits for Wilmington. Treml fell to 8-1, dropping his first game since 2011.