Texas Lutheran survives in 13

More news about: Swarthmore | Texas Lutheran

By Austin Walther
for D3sports.com

An elimination game which wouldn’t end came down to a bench player getting a big hit, two closers pitching into their sixth innings, and an All-American breaking out of a slump. It all added up to Texas Lutheran defeating Swarthmore, 3-2.

Swarthmore was eliminated, while Texas Lutheran plays Concordia-Chicago. The Bulldogs would have to beat CUC twice, once on Monday, in order to advance to the Division III baseball championship series.

It was an historic afternoon for leadoff hitter Riley Schaefer, who set the school record for hits in a season when he got a single in the fourth, then got the game-winning hit in the top of the 13th.

Riley Schaefer
Riley Schaefer knocks a single through the left side of the infield to bring home Andrew Whitten with the go-ahead run as Texas Lutheran survived a 13-inning marathon against Swarthmore.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com 
Dylan Murrell pitching
Dylan Murrell went five and one-third innings, allowing one run, in relief for TLU.
Photo by Kylie Bridenhagen, d3photography.com

Cole Beeker got the scoring going right away for Swarthmore when he ripped an RBI double all the way to the right center wall to put the Garnet up 1-0.

“He left a pitch over the plate,” Beeker said. “I was able to get some solid contact on it and Charles Levitt has good speed, so he was able to score.”

Schaefer broke out of an 0-for-9 slump when he singled with two outs in the fourth inning. After two consecutive hits, he came around to score and tie the game at one.

The Schaefer hit made him the single season all-time hit leader in Texas Lutheran program history. That’s a record which was set when they were NAIA and coach Greg Burnett was there as an assistant coach during a 56-game season.

“It was about time, wasn’t it?” Burnett said. “You can’t help when you’re chasing a record like that to think about it. You know it’s on his mind. I knew once he got the hit, things would start to roll.”

“It was looming in a conversation earlier this season,” Schaefer said. “As you get closer to it, it’s hard for it not to be on your mind. I just kept saying, play the game like you know how. To finally get it, it was relief to know that I finally done it.”

Landon Weatherly finally settled down for the Bulldogs after the first inning. He retired six in a row from the fourth to the fifth which included three strikeouts. He gave up a single in the sixth, but retired the next three.

Andrew Whitten came in as a pinch-hitter for the Bulldogs in the fifth and laid down a sac bunt to move a runner. In the seventh he hit a sac fly to left field which gave Texas Lutheran the lead 2-1.

With two outs in the seventh, Weatherly walked a guy. After a mound visit, his defense picked up a great play to preserve the one-run lead.

“I had some jitters and was amped up,” Weatherly said. “Once I settled down, it’s pretty easy to pitch with the defense behind me. I know they have confidence in me and I can throw the pitches I need to throw.” 

Ryan Warm went a solid seven innings for the Garnet. He threw seven innings, allowed nine hits, only two runs and struck out three batters. Jack Corkery came in relief and shut down the Bulldogs in order in the eighth.

“Ryan is a dude,” coach Matt Midkiff said, “He’s the best left-handed vegetarian that I have ever seen. He’s fantastic and he can really pitch and has pitched in a lot of big games for us. We trust him on the mound.”

Warm said he just wanted to keep competing all game long so he could get another victory for the seniors, but knew that Texas Lutheran was a good team.

“I Probably shouldn’t have let up those runners, but I wanted to do my part, keep the game close, have a quality start,” Warm said. “They were a really good team and when I left some balls over the plate, they let me know it.”

Weatherly ended his day pitching seven innings, only allowing the one run on five hits and six strikeouts. Closer Dylan Murrell was brought in to relieve the starter in the eighth.

“Landon [Weatherly] was great,” Burnett said. “He started out with his command not all that sharp, but once he was able to find a little command of his breaking ball, he settled in and was great.”

The Garnet was able to jump on the Bulldogs’ reliever. Beeker got his second hit of the game. Conor Elliott delivered the third single of the game which found a spot in shallow right to tie the game up at two.

Both teams refused to go home. Texas Lutheran threatened in the top of the ninth, but they left a guy standing at third. The Bulldogs then sent Swarthmore down in order to force extra innings.

The closers for the Bulldogs and the Garnet dialed in for long relief outings after the game went into extra innings.

Whitten made a great play in the top of the 13th inning, picking up the ball after Matt Palmer hit it off the wall and throwing Palmer out trying to stretch the hit into a double. He came up to lead off the bottom half of the inning and hit a double off the left field wall. He advanced to third on a sac bunt. With two guys on and two outs, the all-time single season hit leader for Texas Lutheran delivered the go-ahead run.

“Andrew [Whitten] has been a guy we have used a lot against left-handed pitching,” Burnett said. “It was one of those moments where I felt like he gave us a little bit better look. There’s the old baseball adage where you make a great defensive play, you lead off the next inning with a big hit.”

Schaefer also reflected on his historic achievement in program history and what was going through his mind before he drove in the eventual game-winning run.

“My mom texted me this morning and she just kept saying, play like you are 12 years old again,” Schaefer said. “I told myself on deck, these are those moments where you’re playing backyard baseball with your friends and it’s the World Series, extra innings, runner on third and two outs so I’m going to get the hit.”

Beeker delivers once again as he didn’t want the season to end with a one-out double. That made way for a pitching change as the Bulldogs brought in Drew Waller. He got the next guy to fly out to right and struck out the final batter to end the game and secure the win.

“I was trying to get something going for my team,” Beeker said. “The first time I faced him [Murrell], I squared one up. Then the second time through, he was mixing fast balls and curve balls and the third time around I had a good idea what he was going to throw.

Swarthmore’s season ends at 38-11 after the program’s deepest run through the NCAA Tournament. Because of the rigorous academic schedule at one of the top three liberal arts colleges in the country, Midkiff doesn’t always have a full team during practices so they make do with what they have. This achievement is something that he will never forget.

“I really think it’s a historic run that we have been on,” Midkiff said. “To my knowledge, no school, as academic as ours has done this. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs. These guys are high-achieving people so that was not good enough for them.”

For Burnett he said it was an instant classic. Both teams competed very hard.

“Those were two teams that didn’t want to go home,” Burnett said. “Both of them were executing on the mound. We were very fortunate to come out on top. I can’t say enough about our pitching today.

“We got some really timely hits at the end.”