|Keith Andrews got gunned down at the plate to end the game, after head coach Joe Brown waved him in to score from first on a double.
By Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
By Austin Walthers
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - Trinity (Texas) got a strong start and an even stronger relief performance to hold down the potent Cortland lineup and defeat the defending national champions 5-2, ending the Red Dragons’ hope at back-to-back titles.
The Tigers (42-7) await either Keystone or La Roche on Tuesday in the first game of the best-of-three Division III Baseball Championship Series.
Tigers shortstop Connor Moore went 2-for-5 and scored two runs, while also ranging into left field to rob Fabio Ricci of a certain two-RBI single in the seventh inning.
“Cortland is such a good team and they forced us to play a style of baseball we’re not accustomed to,” said Trinity coach Tim Scannell, who got his 600th career win, all of them at the helm of the Tigers. “We got some key bunts, we moved some runners and we played small ball at a very good level.”
Cortland coach Joe Brown said they had to dig deep into the pitching staff before the game.
“I congratulated my pitching coach and pitchers because the entire year we had to cut and paste,” Brown said. “There’s one thing you will never ever, ever see from a Cortland team is quit.”
Moore opened up the game with a triple to left center after Cortland left fielder Nick Hart and center fielder Conrad Ziemendorf collided while going for a ball. Moore came around to score after a sacrifice fly from Colin Serkowski to put the Tigers up 1-0. The Tigers increased that lead to 2-0 one inning later when Andrew Waters delivered a base hit to score Nick Jewett.
Ziemendorf delivered in the bottom of the fourth with bases loaded to cut the Trinity lead to 2-1. Austin Clock then tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI single, but Ziemendorf was thrown out at home.
Connor McEachern knocked a base hit in the sixth inning for Trinity and scored Drew Butler to take the lead back at 3-2.
Cortland put two runners on with two outs in the sixth from a base hit and a walk by Turner which gave way to reliever Andrew Hoffman. After back to back walks, pinch-hitter Patrick Schetter hit a shot back to Hoffman to end the inning without any runs.
Scannell said Hoffman fields his position wonderfully and made a great pitch for the hitter to jam it back to him.
“He’s [Hoffman] such an attack orientated kid,” Scannell said. “Andrew knocked it down, picked it up, collected himself and threw him out and squashed that huge rally.”
Moore then led off the seventh inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice. He then came home to score on another sacrifice fly to center to tack on insurance runs putting the score 4-2.
The Tigers’ rallies in both the first and seventh were started by Moore.
“These guys have played in big games for a long, long time,” Scannell said. “Nothing he [Moore] does surprises me.”
Moore said he kept flying out and didn’t want to do too much.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive,” Moore said. “I was just trying to stay on top of the ball and shoot it the other way and it worked out.”
With two outs in the seventh, Cortland loaded the basses by hitting a single and drawing two walks. Fabio Ricci then hit a blooper to short and Moore made an over the shoulder catch to end the inning with no runs.
Moore said he noticed Cortland hitting a lot of balls in the five and six holes.
“I shifted over a little bit in the hole,” Moore said. “I just got a good jump off the bat and fortunate to be there in time and snagged it.”
Jose Santos started the Tigers’ eighth inning by reaching on an error by Marcos Perivolaris, moved to second on a sacrifice and to third on an infield grounder. Brody Fehmel, who replaced Austin Singer in the outfield in the sixth inning, followed with a single through the right side of the infield to bring home Santos.
In the ninth inning, Brown went to his bench so every senior on the team had the experience to be in a championship setting, including putting Andrews in to pinch-hit.
“They come here to expect this,” Brown said. “We might not pass the eye test sometimes, but we challenge our kids with a tough schedule and we challenge them to be accountable.”
Andrews, who did not play in the 2015 national title run, had not played in Appleton in 2016 and had had only 25 at-bats all season. He drew a two-out walk to keep the game alive. Steven Figueroa followed with a shot to left field. Brown waved Andrews around and he was gunned out at the plate to end the game.
"That's something fortunately or unfortunately that's with me," Brown said. "One hundred percent accountability with the ending of the game is with me and I should've held the runners."
The save was Hoffman’s second of the World Series and his fifth of the season. “For this guy [Hoffman] to be a freshman,” Scannell said. “Without him this year, I can’t tell you where we would be. He does it on nothing but toughness, grit and determination.”
Hoffman has a lot of trust in the upperclassmen behind him in the field.
“I try not to add too much pressure to myself,” Hoffman said. “I just try to get ahead and get ground balls hit to my fielders that I have a lot of faith in.”
Scannell felt like they were the more aggressive team and knew what his club was all about.
“It took everything we had to go toe to toe with them,” Scannell said. “I think in the game we did a phenomenal job of taking the fight to Cortland.”
This year’s Cortland team featured a lot of seniors, who appreciated having the opportunity to defend their title as one of the last four teams remaining in the 2016 Division III baseball season.
Senior Fabio Ricci said he’s always been overlooked until he came to Cortland. “I just play hard-nosed baseball,” Ricci said. “I tip my cap to him [Brown] for believing in me and it’s literally everything he told me it was going to be coming here.”
For Scannell’s milestone, he’s only concerned about picking up number 602 in Appleton and he said it’s very humbling.
“We want two more,” Scannell said. “All these wins come from so many kids in the history of our program and we really feel we’re here on the shoulders of past teams, past players and past parents.”