Big inning fuels Tommies' opening victory

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GRAND CHUTE, Wis. – St. Thomas exploded for nine runs in the third inning and held on for a 12-7 win over Christopher Newport University Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Division III College World Series.

The Tommies (39-8) rapped out 15 hits, stole eight bases and took advantage of five Christopher Newport errors to launch Steve Maher to his school-record 13th win of the season. The eight steals were one off the tournament record.

They will play the winner of Friday's final game between defending national champion Marietta and Whitworth at 7:45 p.m. Saturday.

Maher broke the wins record set two years ago by Matt Schuld, but struggled in the early going. He loaded the bases three times in the second and third, but allowed only two runs in each inning before settling down and retiring 11 out of 13 hitters in the next four innings.

After spotting Christopher Newport (34-9) a 2-0 lead in the second, the Tommies responded with nine runs in the top of the third off Greg Goldsmith, who came in with a 6-2 record and .243 ERA. They sent 13 men to the plate, banging out eight singles and a double; the nine hits were one off a national tournament record set by Marietta in 1983. Three players – Justin Novak, Ben Podobinski and Tim Kuzniar – each had two hits in the inning.

Novak and Podobinski started the onslaught with back-to-back bunt singles, and Kuzniar tied the game with a two-run double after Coach Chris Olean gave him the green light on a 3-0 count. Charles Bruchu followed with a single and Dylan Thomas gave the Tommies a 3-2 lead on a sacrifice fly that scored Kuzniar.

Five batters later and with the Tommies leading 5-2, Novak came up for the second time in the inning and hit a low liner that caromed off first base into right field and scored two runners for a 7-2 lead. Podobinski followed with an RBI single and scored the inning's final run on a catcher's throwing error.

Christopher Newport cut the St. Thomas lead to 9-4 in the bottom of the third after Maher loaded the bases for the second straight inning and gave up a two-run double. He loaded the bases again with a walk but induced a fly ball to escape.

St. Thomas got those two runs back in the fifth to take an 11-4 lead. Novak hit his third single of the game, stole second and scored on a single by Bruchu, who then stole second and came in on a Thomas double.

The Tommies added their final run in the sixth. Dan Reichert singled, moved to third on a single and groundout and scored on an error.

Christopher Newport made things interesting in the ninth inning with a two-run home run by Christophen McDougal. CNU added a single and a walk. Olean brought in Tommy Danczyk, who issued a walk to load the bases. The Captains hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 12-7 and reloaded the bases on another walk, but Danczyk got two strikeouts to end the game.