|Cortland rallied for five runs in the ninth to sweep the Championship Series from UW-La Crosse.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
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By Jim Dixon
GRAND CHUTE, Wis. – On a day where a victory would give life to one team and a long-sought trophy to the other, you expect a battle. The teams did not disappoint.
In the end it was Cortland State that prevailed in a 6-2 win over UW-La Crosse to win its first ever national championship in the finale of the NCAA D-III World Series.
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"That was one of the most gut-wrenching games I have ever coached in my life," Cortland coach Joe Brown said, "knowing the circumstances with the national championship on the line. We were stymied for a while but that was the exact recipe in the regional. We could have been two-and-out in our regional. I give a lot of credit to our young men, the level of toughness was displayed was like none other."
"There was fight all the way to the end and that is all that we can ask," said UW-La Crosse coach Chris Schwarz. "It was a consistently good effort over the season. It stings and will for a while but I would not have taken this journey with another group of guys."
Cortland sent 10 batters to the plate to score five runs in the ninth. The Red Dragons' rally began with Matthew Michalski's single up the middle. UW-La Crosse's third baseman was unable to execute on Cortland's sacrifice and a Mark DeMilio walk loaded the bases with no outs. Nick Hart stepped to the plate and lined a single into center field for the go-ahead runs. Cortland added three more runs as they took advantage of two more errors in the inning.
"I was looking for something up in the zone," Hart said. "I was not necessarily trying to get a hit but to get the run in. The guys did a helluva job to get on base ahead of me. [Hitting the go-ahead single in the ninth] is something that everyone dreams of doing and I got to experience that today."
UW-La Crosse's Joe Miller and Cortland's Seth Lamando were matching each other from the start with shutout innings before the first serious scoring threat came in the bottom of the fifth inning.
A one-out triple by Travis Buxton-Verstegen was followed by a walk to Joel Zyhowski. Eric Vatch laid down a safety squeeze that Lamando fired to the Cortland catcher who tagged a sliding Buxton-Verstegen out. An Alex Cordova strikeout ended the Eagles' threat.
"Lamando pitched suberbly in that inning, to pitch in those circumstances, to execute the location was key," Brown said.
In its next at-bat, Cortland started the day's scoring with a run on three hits. Vinny Bomasuto singled to right and took second on a groundout. Conrad Ziemendorf's safety to center plated Bomasuto. Fabio Ricci hit a double over the outstretched glove of Bryce Barsness to put two runners in scoring position, ending the day for Miller. With the infield drawn in, a lineout to second and a fly to left ended the inning.
The Eagles answered with pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Taylor Kohlwey walked and took third on Ben Morgan's drive to right. Barsness and Shane Adler followed with singles to the right to plate Kohlwey and then Morgan.
"We went down a bit and we kinda had to regroup," Ziemendorf said. "We always come back in the ninth or the late innings. We did it in Florida, we did it today."
Both teams had chances in the seventh and eighth innings to score but were unable to add to their run totals setting up the fireworks in the ninth.
Adam Brant (4-1) earned the win with a perfect inning. The Cortland starter, Lamando pitched seven innings allowing two runs, all earned on eight hits and three walks. He added nine strikeouts to his series leading total (20). Travis Laitar pitched an inning allowing one walk and striking out one.
Sadowske (5-1) took the loss, allowing five hits in three and two third innings. He gave up five runs, one earned, walking one and striking out two. Joe Miller pitched the first five and a third innings. He gave up one run, earned, on six hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out two.