APPLETON, Wis. – Matt Heslin finished off his second complete game of the season to lead the fifth-seeded Washington & Jefferson baseball team to a 12-2 win over third-seeded California Lutheran on Monday afternoon in the opening game of the DIII national championship series.
The No. 16 Presidents improved to a program-best 42-11 on the season and claimed a 1-0 championship series lead in the best-of-three set. W&J, just the fifth school from Pennsylvania to make it to the NCAA Division III Baseball College World Series, is looking to become the first college or university from the commonwealth to win the national championship. A title would also represent the first team national championship in school history.
Heslin's nine innings on the mound were a career-high, as the junior righty allowed two earned runs on nine hits with no walks and induced two groundball double plays in the game.
Offensively, Kevin Begley led the Presidents with a career-high four RBIs to go along with his 3-for-5 performance at the plate, and Nick Gatins drove in three runs and scored another. Adam LaRue, Ryan Sciullo and Jake Gordon each had multi-hit efforts for W&J, combining for six hits, seven runs and three RBIs. Sciullo's two-run triple in the fifth inning tied Tim Boal (1978) for the second most triples in a single season (seven) and gives him 15 three-baggers in his career, also second most in program history (Josh Staniscia, 18).
LaRue led off the game with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second on a single through the left side by Derek Helbing. After LaRue moved up to third on a fly out, Gatins brought LaRue in on a sacrifice fly to center field for the first run of the game.
In the second inning, Sciullo reached on an error to begin the inning and raced to third on a single to right-center field by Gordon) Sciullo came in for the Presidents' second run on a groundball double play.
Sciullo then doubled to left with two outs in the fourth and quickly scored when Gordon doubled to right. Begley singled to left field to score Gordon as the W&J lead grew to 4-0.
LaRue started the fifth inning off with an infield single and got to third on a double from Nick Vento. Gatins brought LaRue in with his second sac fly of the game before Mark Merlino reached on an error. Sciullo proceeded to line a triple to right-center field, plating Vento and Merlino to give W&J a 7-0 lead.
After the Kingsmen scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, Begley added an RBI single in the eighth inning. In the ninth inning, Gatins drove in a run on a fielder's choice, Vento scored on an error and Begley had a two-RBI single to cap a four-run final inning and put the finishing touches on the 12-2 win.
The Presidents and Kingsmen will play Game 2 of the national championship series on Tuesday at noon ET. If the Kingsmen win Game 2, Game 3 of the series will be played 30 minutes following the conclusion of Game 2.