By Jim Dixon
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - Washington & Jefferson made a statement on Sunday as they defeated Roanoke 8-1 and became the first team to move into the championship series of the 2017 NCAA D-III World Series on neurosciences group field at Fox Cities Stadium.
Game 11 photo gallery
Interesting start, interesting game," said W&J head coach Jeff Mountain. "I thought when we played Roanoke yesterday, the first three innings were critical. Today the first inning was critical. We did not get off to the best start but minimized the damage. It is a thin line between success and failure. I think that the first inning exemplified that."
"The first inning set the tone of the game," said Matt McGuire. We had the bases loaded, no outs and we get one. W&J did the same thing and they put up five. We kinda let the emotions of the game get to us."
|Nick Vento launched his ninth homer of the year as part of a three-run second inning.
By Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
Roanoke loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning off of Trevor Kerr but managed just one run.
Roanoke and W&J each received shutdown performance from their pitchers. Unfortunately for the Maroons, it was their reliever Sal Trancucci, rather than closer Rawlings Cumbea, who got the start.
"The biggest thing was for [Trancucci] to get the balli.," said Roanoke catcher Will Black. "He either missed it of striked in. After the second we did not miss over the plate much. He would get the ball up and they could not get their arms extended."
Roanoke and W&J both got their first four batters on base with a run in but the end result was different for the Maroons and Presidents. Roanoke was unable to hit the ball out of the infield and W&J sent their balls to the outfield for a bases clearing triple and sacrifice fly.
Sean Guida and Collier Donald opened the first for Roanoke with singles to left and was followed with a walk to Will Decker and a hit-by-pitch for Dean Hermanson for a 1-0 lead. Following a strikeout, Scott Ellis' single hit Decker leaving the bases loaded with two outs. W&J starter Trevor Kerr got Drew Mikula to strikeout to end the early threat.
"The name of the game is slowing the game down focusing on the things you do inbetween pitches," said Kerr. "It was good to be able to settle in and get a couple pitches across and get out of the inning with one run.
Four singles to open the bottom of the inning for the Presidents found the bases loaded and the score tied. Mark Merlino's triple to right center cleared the bases, scoring Derek Helbing, Nick Vento and Nick Gatis. Ryan Sciullo's sacrifice scored Merlino for a 5-1 lead.
The second inning started off innocently with a groundout induced by the new Roanoke pitcher, Trancucci. Adam LaRue was plunked in the head by Trancucci and was joined on the bases by Helbing who walked. Vento followed with a home run down the rightfield line. With Gatins at the plate, a dispute over the count brought out McGuire to argue with the umpires, echoing issues that the Roanoke skipper had in an earlier game today. W&J would threaten late in the inning but leave a couple runners on as the second inning ended with the Presidents holding a 8-1 lead.
Through the third and into the fifth inning, both pitchers settled in as Trancucci regained the form he showed in yesterday's contest and Kerr recovered from his first inning wildness.
Kerr pitched six innings as he got the win. He allowed one run on six hitswith a walk and five strikeouts. Ben Marsico piched the final three innings for the save. He shutout Roanoke, alowing two hit. He struk out one batter. Cumbea took the loss with five runs in the first inning. He allowed five hits with one strikeout. Trancucci pitched four innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He walked a batter and struk out three. Connor Chiull and Michael Mares both pitched for the Maroons.
Black led all hitters with three hits. W&J's Vento and Merlin also had multiple hit days with two hits. Vento had four RBIs and Merlino had three RBIs.
"I don't think you change anything," said Mountain about preparing for the final series. "You just go out and play the game. The big key for us is our explosive offense. It's continued here but we have given up four runs and committed one, maybe two errors. That's the blueprint when you get to this level. That is how you have success. You just got to keep plugging."
Washington and Jefferson will play either Monday or Tuesday against Cal Lutheran or North Central, depending on the result of the bracket two championship game. Roanoke finished the season 35-19.
This story will be updated.