GRAND CHUTE, Wisc. — Trinity University out of Texas proved to be the undoing of SUNY Cortland, as the Red Dragons were unable to repeat as NCAA Division III World Series baseball champions.
Cortland lost to Trinity for the second time in Pool A play at Fox Cities Stadium on Monday afternoon. In a game that was deadlocked at 2-2, the Tigers scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to pull away to post a 5-2 victory.
The Red Dragons tried to mount a two-out rally in the ninth, only to have the game end with a base-runner being thrown out at the plate.
After pinch-hitter Keith Andrews kept the season alive drawing a two-out walk, third baseman Steven Figueroa followed double down the line in left. But a relay from left fielder Jeremy Wolf to third baseman Carter McEachern to catcher Drew Butler nabbed Andrews trying to score to end the game.
“I would hold my players accountable for a two-strike hanging breaking ball or popping up with the infield in, so I have to hold myself accountable for that decision at the end of the game,” said emotional head coach Joe Brown, who also serves as the third base coach when Cortland is at bat.
“I should have let this man come up,” added Brown while gesturing towards Fabio Ricci, who was seating beside the Cortland coach at the post-game press conference and would have been the potential tying run at the plate. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, that’s with me. One hundred percent accountability with the ending of the game was with me, and I should have held the runners.”
The Red Dragons had lost to Trinity 9-7 on Sunday in a Pool A showdown of 1-0 teams, only to come back that same day to remain alive with an 8-3 win over Wisconsin-La Crosse.
That set up a rematch with Trinity, which now has the Tigers (42-7) advancing into the best-of-three championship series against Pool B survivor Keystone (40-9) out of Pennsylvania that gets underway today.
Cortland headed home with a 43-8 overall record, which ties for the second most wins in program history. Last year’s national championship squad finished 45-4 and the Red Dragons’ 2005 national runner-up squad went 43-9-1.
“I TIP MY CAP to Trinity. They’re one of the best teams in the country. I felt that way last year when I saw them play out here (at the World Series),” said Cortland’s Brown.
“I give my team unbelievable amounts of credit to compete and battle under the challenging circumstances we faced,” he added. “It’s not an excuse, but this is a physically and emotionally and mentally draining experience. It’s something these kids play hard for.”
Nick Di Benedetto started for Cortland and pitched into the seventh inning. The senior right-hander allowed four runs on nine hits in six and a third innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
Freshman southpaw Kashaun Curry faced one batter before being replaced by Adam Brant, who gave up two hits and one unearned run in an inning and two thirds. Turner Parry came in with a runner on in the ninth and did not allow any runs.
Trinity opened the game with a run in the top of the first. Shortstop Connor Moore led off with a triple when two Cortland outfielders collided on a fly ball to the left center gap, and Colin Serkowski followed with a sacrifice fly to center. The Tigers made it 2-0 on Andrew Waters’ second inning RBI single.
Cortland tied the game with two runs in the fourth.
After shortstop Paul Dondero was hit by a pitch and Figueroa walked, one out later Conrad Ziemendorf doubled into left-center to bring Dondero home. Senior first baseman Austin Clock delivered an RBI single to right-center, though Trinity threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate on that hit.
TRINITY GRABBED A 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth. Catcher Butler — who had belted a crucial three-run homer in Sunday’s win over Cortland — led off with a single and, with two outs, Waters singled to right-center and McEachern hit an RBI single up the middle.
The Tigers tacked on a run in the seventh on a Butler sac fly and another in the eighth on a Brody Fehmel two-out, run-producing single.
Cortland threatened with two-out rallies in the sixth and seventh but could not score.
In the sixth, Ricci singled with two outs and Ziemendorf and Clock each walked. Pinch-hitter Patrick Schetter hit a line drive up the middle, but the pitcher Andrew Hoffman knocked the ball down and threw to first for the out.
In the seventh with two outs, Nick Hart walked, Dondero singled and Figueroa walked to load the bases. Ricci then hit a 3-2 pitch that appeared destined to drop into left field for a potential game-tying single, but shortstop Moore made a racing, diving catch in the outfield to rob Ricci and end the inning.
Cortland then came up short in the ninth. Center fielder Ziemendorf finished 2-for-3 with a walk and RBI to lead Cortland.
“We may not pass the eye-test sometimes, but we challenge our kids with a tough schedule. We challenged them to be accountable. It’s fun to be here. It’s fun to win,” said Coach Brown of his squad. “We just played the number two, four, six, eight and 10th ranked teams int he country in the last 10 days, and we played the top two hitting teams in the country in the last 10 days. That’ an incredible challenge and we did pretty good.”
THE RED DRAGONS tied for third nationally at the World Series, going 2-2. Coach Joe Brown’s squad had opened up play on Friday blanking Emory College out of Atlanta 1-0 behind pitcher Seth Lamando’s six-hit, 10-strikeout showing.
Cortland has now finished in the top four eight times, including last year’s national title, runner-up showings in 2005 and 2010, third-place finishes in 1997, 1998 and this spring, and fourth-place finishes in 2007 and 2012.
“It’s the best program in the country. It’s the best program. What I mean by that is the administration, all the alumni out there, and the kids,” said Brown, going on to point out all the injuries his players endured competing in the post-season.
Brown also offered a promise before ending his press conference.
“The excitement is unbelievable what is going on at our instituion right now,” he proclaimed. “We’ll be back.”