By John McGraw
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- A four-run third inning was part of a swell of six runs over the first three innings that helped Concordia-Chicago remain undefeated at the World Series with an 8-3 win over Texas Lutheran on Saturday night at Neuroscience Group Field.
The Cougars (40-13) advanced to the Bracket 2 final on Sunday where they will meet either Swarthmore or Texas Lutheran for the right to advance to the championship series.
- World Series Day 2 scoreboard
- World Series Day 3 schedule
- Feature: Zurowski's long journey to the mound
- Feature: TLU playing it all for KB
- Feature: True Fighting Scot in a true battle
- Game 5: Randolph-Macon rebounds
- Game 6: Tyler takes it to 2-0
- Game 7: Swat gets first Series win
- Pat and Jim wrap up Day 1 from Appleton
- D-III World Series team-by-team preview
- World Series record book
- Photo galleries: Game 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
CUC started quickly with single runs in each of the first two innings. However the game changed in the third when the Cougars batted through the order and scored four runs on four hits to open up a 6-0 advantage. The lead was enough for the combination of Keaton Conner (5-2) and Mike Formella who teamed up to hold the Bulldogs to a postseason-low four hits.
|Joe Silva has five hits and six RBIs in two games for Concordia-Chicago in the 2018 D-III World Series, including an epic 15-pitch at-bat.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
|Keaton Conner alloded just three hits in his six innings before handing the ball to D3baseball.com All-America closer Mike Formella.
photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
“Keaton was great. I know he walked a few more guys than he wanted to. He was able to keep them off balance all night,” said Concordia-Chicago coach Mike Stawski. Conner scattered three hits, walked three, struck out three and stranded six Bulldog runners on base. Formella, the MVP of the Midwest Regional, worked the final three innings to convert his team-leading 15th save.
“We chased the game the entire time,” said Texas Lutheran coach Greg Burnett. “We were down early. Down six after two and a half innings. Their pitcher, Keaton Conner, did a good job of limiting us from being able to score.”
Concordia’s offense was the story early and then late. The Cougars jumped on Texas Lutheran starter Dylan Drgac (11-2) in the first three innings and never let him settle in. Bryan VanDuser tripled into the left-field corner in the first and scored on a Joe Silva sacrifice fly in the first. The run was the first allowed by Texas Lutheran after the Bulldogs shut out Wooster on Friday. The next inning, CUC’s second of three triples, a three-base hit into right-center field from Kevin Coppin scored Brady Roberts from first. Drgac bounced back to strike out back-to-back hitters stranding Coppin on third.
In the third, Concordia’s offense heated up. A single and a walk put Cougars on first and second with no outs. The next batter, Joe Silva, couldn’t get a bunt down and fought Drgac to an epic 2-2 count in a near-15-pitch at-bat.
“My approach was just to get the guys over. Not thinking too much about the RBI. I felt like I was right on a couple of pitches and I finally got a change-up and I got enough to muscle it into right field” said Silva.
Eventually Silva straightened out his swing and drove a pitch through the right side that scored Jose Mercado. Andrew Massey followed with a double into right and Silva scored on a Mitch Wilson fly out into left field. A two-out walk to Coppin chased Drgac from the game as the Cougars would go on to bat around the order scoring four runs on four hits.
The Cougars finished the night with 11 hits, four for extra bases with three triples. Concordia also drew seven walks after walking just three times in Friday’s 9-4 win over Swarthmore.
“The difference today was that we weren’t lunging at breaking balls in 1-1 counts or 2-2 counts” said Mike Stawski, the CUC coach. “We were letting those things go and getting into positive 3-1 counts.” Stawski also credited his assistant coach, Kolin Conner, for the team’s patient approach at the plate.
After stranding a runner on second in each of their first two at-bats, Texas Lutheran came through with a two-out hit in the third. Riley Schaefer reached base for the first time of the tournament when he was hit by a pitch. A failed pick-off attempt and a groundout moved him to third before Thomas Varner slashed a single into right field plating Schaefer.
Texas Lutheran made things interesting in the fifth with two runs to trim CUC’s lead to 6-3. Thomas Varner capped off the rally with his second RBI single of the game. However the Bulldogs were not able to plate further runs as Keaton Conner induced a fly out to end the inning.
Before the Bulldogs could make another push, CUC tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh to put the game out of reach.
“We had opportunities and their pitcher did a great job. Every time we had a great shot, he would make a great pitch.” They did a good job of limiting our runs.
Joe Silva picked up his sixth RBI of the tournament with a ground out in the sixth that scored Jose Mercado. Brady Roberts tripled in the seventh and then raced home on a Kevin Coppin fly out to right.
The top four hitters in Concordia-Chicago’s lineup accounted for seven of the Cougars 11 hits and seven of the eight runs. Bryan VanDusen, injured in Concordia’s run to Appleton last year, had two hits and scored two runs. After a four-RBI game on Friday, Joe Silva went 2-for-3 with two RBI. Andrew Massey had two hits and Jose Mercado scored twice.
For Texas Lutheran, Jordan Whitten pitched 3.1 innings of four-hit relief in place of Dylan Drgac.