Captains Surge Past Hornets For 9-5 NCAA Tournament Win
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Christopher Newport University's baseball team won a back-and-forth NCAA tournament game over USA South rival, 9-5, to advance to the Newport News Regional championship game. The Captains and Hornets tangled for the fifth time this season and CNU improved to 4-1 in the series and 33-8 overall.
Shenandoah took an early lead when senior center fielder Jake Pendergraft singled through the left side to score Joey Donofrio and stake the Hornets to an early 1-0 lead. Pendergraft finished Saturday's game 3-5 with three RBI.
CNU struggled to score off of Shenandoah starter Nicholas McMahon (6-0 entering the game) as the Hornets held their one run advantage until the fourth inning. Captains second baseman, Matt Shoemaker doubled down the left field line with one out. Lindemuth popped up to the second baseman in swirling wind out of left field for the second out, bringing Steven Keener to the plate. Keener took a 1-2 fastball over the right field wall for the first home run of the Newport News regional. Keener led all Captains with a 2-4 performance at the plate, including three RBI and a pair of runs scored.
The six teams in the Newport News Regional hit a combined 128 home runs during the 2012 season; Keener's home run was the first of the tournament as steady 20 mph winds have been blowing in from left field since Thursday morning.
With a 2-1 lead, CNU's Jacob Vaughan pitched into the fifth inning before the Hornets strung together a series of singles to load the bases with only one out. In a bases loaded jam, Captains coach, John Harvell, went to the bullpen for Rich Lindsay. Right-handed batters have hit less than .200 against Lindsay during the 2012 campaign. Pendergraft continued his sizzling play in the NCAA tournament with a two-run double over Shannon Mark's head in center giving the Hornets a 3-2 advantage. After relieving Lindsay, Matt Verdillo issued a bases loaded walk to Michael Paul adding yet another run.
Shenandoah's lead would not last. The Captains answered with three singles of their own to load the bases with one out against McMahon. Hornets coach Kevin Anderson went to his bullpen for left-handed relief specialist, Matt Riegler. Riegler promptly gave up a swinging-bunt single to Keener allowing Connor Madden to score.
CNU catcher, Ben Lenda stepped to the plate after Vince Claudio replaced Riegler and took an 0-1 curve ball to right field for a two-RBI single and reclaiming the lead for the Captains. CNU added a run off a sacrifice fly by Chris McDougal before retiring in the top of the sixth with a 6-4 lead.
After allowing a run in the bottom of the seventh, CNU answered with three more runs in the eighth to grow their lead to 9-5. Lenda continued his hot play with a single through the left side and advanced to third when McDougal singled to right field. Billy Steel's RBI single sent Lenda home and advanced Andy Viands, McDougal's inch-runner, to third. Madden drove in Viands and Steel before the Hornets were able to get out of the inning.
CNU closer, Ryan Fleischmann took the hill to start the bottom half of the eighth and needed only seven pitched to induce three groundouts to Steel at short. Shenandoah managed a pair of hits to advance runners to second and third in the ninth against Fleischmann, but Michael Paul's third strikeout of the game ended the threat and clinched CNU's fourth win of the NCAA tournament.
CNU will play second seeded Salisbury Saturday afternoon in a winner-take-all championship game at approximately 2:40 p.m.