DII baseball championship journal: Looking back at Day 4 from Grand Prairie
GRAND PRAIRIE, TX. — It was a hot one from the Ballpark in Grand Prairie on Tuesday.
So was Day 4's action from the DII Baseball Championships.
Remember, if you would, all the way back to yesterday. We were witness to four starters, each one seemingly outdoing their counterpart.
It was the polar opposite in the day game on Day 4.
Quincy and UC San Diego had an offensive explosion in the matinee of the DII Baseball Championship twin billing. Elimination was on the line and both teams somehow showed a resiliency to bounce back, despite how unlikely it looked.
For example, the Tritons entered the fourth inning trailing 7-1 and left tied. Head coach Eric Newman knew he had time to get his team to regroup.
He didn’t know it would take one inning.
Freshman left fielder Keenan Brigman came to the plate. He wasn't there long as he legged out the double that started the rally for the ages.
“I was trying to get on base anyway I could,” Brigman said. “I was able to get it over the shortstop’s head. I saw the left fielder had a little bit of room to run before he got there, so I just tried to leg it out and get on second base and get into scoring position. It was my read.”
Senior Brandon Shirley came to bat with the bases loaded and ripped a two-run double. The tide was turned. The Tritons were charging.
Quincy’s time in Grand Prairie came to an end, but not before it left a statement. Making its DII Baseball Championship, Quincy had an impressive offensive output, led by senior Jake Walters and sophomore Nolan Snyder.
Together, the duo was responsible for nearly all of the runs the Hawks scored in Grand Prairie. Walters had three straight singles to start the game, scoring each time. When he finally made an out, he drove in a run doing so. Snyder, as he did on Sunday, had another multi-RBI performance.
Walters time in a Quincy uniform is done. The slugging second baseman, who earned ABCA Second-Team All-American honors on Monday, knew the legacy he and his historical club left would be remembered forever.
“I wish I would have hit three more home runs, to have more than [head coach] Josh Rabe,” Walters recollected of his time at Quincy. “Hopefully as a guy that won. I came in and I wanted to win, and that’s all that mattered.”
“Man is there a fire that’s burning inside of me that’s never been there before,” Snyder added. “It’s to carry on the legacy of my brothers that I’ll have for the rest of my life. We got a taste of this and we want a lot more of it. We’re not coming back here to be here, we’re coming back to win it.”
Tuesday night was Colorado Mesa's head coach Chris Hanks 49th birthday. You can be pretty certain it was the furthest thing from his mind.
Both Colorado Mesa and St. Thomas Aquinas had interesting first days in the DII Baseball Championship. They both grinded out hard-fought wins. They may not have been the prettiest, but they counted as wins nonetheless.
The room for error was slimmer on Tuesday night.
The Mavericks sent flame-throwing righty JR McDermott to the mound, while St. Thomas Aquinas sent out its right-hander Chris Cepeda.
This was a battle much more on par with Monday.
The two went head-to-head in very different ways. McDermott powered the strike zone, striking out nine batters and not getting into much trouble until his final inning. Cepeda was craftier, finding himself in jams, but somehow, someway, working his way out of them.
“JR [McDermott] is a good pitcher," Colorado Mesa head coach Chris Hanks said. "He battles, he competes. That’s the highest pitch count (137) he’s seen all year. He did his job, which all we do is ask out pitchers to keep us in the game. He did a good job.”
Cepeda was successful in escaping two bases loaded jams. One, however, got away.
Colorado Mesa stranded seven runners against Cepeda. Both pitchers left the game after 6.2 innings and both put faith in two very good bullpens.
Final Line on Cepeda - 6.2 IP/96 Pitches, 7 Hits, 1 Run, 0 ER, 2 Walks, 3 Strikeouts. Another great pitching performance by Cepeda.— STAC Spartans (@STACSpartans) May 31, 2017
Good starting pitching and solid bullpens often equate to one thing.
For the second time in the DII Baseball Championship, St. Thomas Aquinas took its opponent to extra innings.
And for the second time, they found a way to come away with extra inning magic. Juan Adorno — who came off the bench — drilled an RBI double and then scored on an Anthony Maisano single. Maisano scored the game tying run two innings earlier, coming off the bench as a pinch runner.
“My mindset is you always got to be ready,” Adorno said. “Stay focused, see what the pitcher is doing and what he’s got. When I was up in the box, keeping my head clear, and not trying to think too much and react to the pitches that he’s throwing. I’m happy to be there for my team and get the run across.”
One thing the Spartans bullpen hasn’t done all season is relinquish leads. When the three-head monster of Chris Pennell, Chad Sinko and George Navadel have a lead after the fifth inning, they are 33-0. They continued that dominace tonight, with Pennell picking up the win and Navadel, despite putting a brief scare into his head coach, got the save.
What's in store now on Wednesday from Grand Prairie? Four teams play. Only two will survive. Who will live to see Thursday?
Lindenwood and UC San Diego kick it off at 4 p.m. Buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride down the home stretch.