A five-run seventh inning, fueled by three RBI doubles, helped No. 16-ranked Washington & Jefferson dispatch Misericordia 12-7 in the first game of the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional at Ross Memorial Park Thursday afternoon.
“That’s not exactly how you draw up day one of a regional,” said W&J head coach Jeff Mountain. “Usually, these games are 3-2, 2-1, or 4-3 type games – tight games, quick games, well-played games with a lot of strikes – kind of the opposite happened, that’s why it’s a beautiful sport. You have to be able to win different styles, and you have to be able to play under any circumstances.”
Fopurth-seeded W&J (35-10) will play eighth-seeded Earham (30-12) in a winner’s bracket game 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The Presidents’ depth and consistency throughout their batting order helped contribute to 12 runs off 18 hits against Misericordia (30-13).
At the top of the order, senior Adam LaRue had four hits in five at-bats, and senior Adam Begley was 4-for-4 while hiiting near the bottom of the order.
“I loved the way we competed offensively,” Mountain said. “Two-out hits, situational hitting, moving runners over, getting runners in, so it was about as good as we could expect offensively.”
Senior Nick Gatins was the star offensively for W&J. He was 3-for-4, which included a solo home run in the fifth inning and a crucial RBI double in the seventh that helped secure the win.
“It was a big play,” Gatins said about the home run. “I’m always hitting fastballs and it helps with our lineup. He threw the pitch early, and I was sitting on it. It helped give us a little spark.”
Gatins’ RBI double in the seventh was his 17th double this season, which is aW&J single-season record.
“That’s not my goal,” Gatins said. “As far as the team goes, winning the regional and hopefully going to Appleton, (Wisc., the site of the College World Series) is my goal. It’s nice, but I don’t think much about it.”
It took some time for the Presidents to get going. The 10 a.m. start might have played a role in W&J’s slow start as the Presidents had issues in the outfield and struggled at bat against Misericordia right-hander Tim Burek.
“It took us some time to figure their starter out,” Mountain said. “He’s obviously a good pitcher.”
Poor fielding led to the only two errors in the game in first two innings, which gave Misericordia the early lead in the second inning 2-0.
“They executed and we didn’t,” Misericordia head coach Pete Egbert said. “Even early on I don’t think we executed as well as we needed to. I think they gave us one or two of those runs.”
W&J held a 7-6 lead when the Presidents opened the bottom of the seventh with a series of base hits. From there, the Presidents blew the game open. An RBI double by LaRue, a two-run double by senior Nick Vento and Gatins’ record-breaking RBI double made the score 12-6.
The Cougars loaded the bases in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but were unable to turn those into runs.
“A lot of credit to W&J,” Egbert said. “Their offense is really good, but we knew that coming in. It was a combination of our pitchers not being able to execute pitches, and their guys putting some good swings on pitches that we didn’t execute. They pitched out of trouble the first two innings, but then they scored for the next five innings and we couldn’t keep them off the board, even though our offense kept trying to get us back into it. That’s an uphill fight because you’re not going to be able to score in every inning in a game like this.”
Earlham 6, Wooster 2: Howie Smith pitched seven strong innings and Erik Elkus hit a three-run homer as eighth-seeded Earlham upset top-seeded Wooster 6-2. It was the first NCAA tournament victory by any Earham athletics team in the school’s 27-year membership in Division III.
Smith allowed two runs over seven innings and Elkus’ home run gave Earlham a 6-2 lead in the fourth inning.
Keystone 5, La Roche 2: Miguel Reyes threw a complete game, and Chris Panzarella had three hits and scored two runs as Keystone defeated La Roche, 5-2.
Reyes scattered eight hits to improve his record to 9-1 and send the Giants into the winners’ bracket.