Photos courtesy by Troy Herring
CARY, N.C. - - The Wilmington University baseball team dropped a tough 3-2 decision to second ranked Catawba in its first ever appearance in the NCAA Division II Baseball Finals on Saturday night at the USA Baseball National Training Center.
Despite only collected two hits in the contest, the Wildcats (37-14) had multiple chances to plate a few runs but left seven runners on base, including two in the third and seventh innings each.
Much like the start of the East Regional Tournament in which the Wildcats fell behind 2-0 after the first inning, Catawba (45-13) jumped out in front off starter Jamie Treml in the top of the first, scoring twice on a pair of doubles and a single in the inning.
After going down in order in the bottom of the first inning, the Wildcats were looking for their first ever hit of the NCAA Division II Baseball Finals and it came in a big way off the bat of senior Sam Goines to lead off the second.
Goines deposited a 2-0 pitch to the hill in left field, marking the first hit as a home run for the Wildcats. More importantly it cut the deficit in half early in the ballgame.
Treml settled into the ballgame after the top of the first, only allowing two hits the rest of his outing. The Indians added a run in the top of the fourth, as a leadoff walk came around to score on a sacrifice fly. The run would prove to a much-needed run for Catawba.
Sean Feeney walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth before being moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Hawthorne. Two batters later Frank Samluk collected an infield single to put runners on first and third with two outs, but the Indians starter Shaefer Shepard induced an inning ending ground ball off the bat of Jon Castro.
The Wildcats cut into the lead in the bottom of the sixth, as Josh Swirchak and Sam Goines started the inning with back-to-back walks. Matt Lopes moved the runners along with a two-strike sacrifice bunt and Christian Adorno brought in a run with an RBI groundout to short. But that would be all the Wildcats would get in the inning as the Catawba bullpen found a way out.
Tory Manfre and Frank Samluk each walked with one out in the bottom of the seventh to put the tying run in scoring position, before Castro moved both runners into scoring position with another sacrifice bunt. But reliever Bryan Blanton was able to escape the jam again for the Indians, getting Swirchak to fly out to end the threat.
That would be the last base runner the Wildcats would have.
Reliever Craig Brooks came on in the bottom of the eighth for the six out save and picked up all six outs in succession to shut down the Wildcats.
Treml was saddled with the hard luck loss, striking out five while walking three and allowing five hits. It was his first loss since April 1, 2012 at Felician. HE is now 31-4 in his career as a Wildcat.
The loss drops the Wildcats to the elimination portion of the bracket, as they face a win-or-go-home game on Monday afternoon against Angelo State. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. at the USA Baseball National Training Center.