Fifth-seeded Washington & Jefferson College earned a 5-3 victory over fourth-seeded Illinois Wesleyan in the opening game of the 2013 NCAA Mideast Regional hosted by the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at Art Nehf Field on Wednesday morning.
With the triumph, the Presidents (31-11) advance to the winner's bracket to face the victor of the No. 1 Manchester-No. 8 Mount Union matchup at 4:30 pm on Thursday. The win was the first-ever for W&J during the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
"This was an important win for our team. We've never been in the winner's bracket before, so to take a game right off the bat is something we really wanted to do," said 2013 PAC Head Coach of the Year Jeff Mountain (11th season).
Junior right-handed pitcher Eddie Nogay (Weirton, W. Va./Madonna) earned the victory on the mound to improve to 11-1 this spring. Nogay went 8 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on 12 hits, while striking out four. Sophomore left hander Jared Baird (East Freedom, Pa./Central) needed one pitch to record the final two outs as he induced a game-ending, 3-6-3 double play to earn his third save.
Nogay's 11th victory of the season tied him with Linfield's Chris Haddeland fir the second-most wins in NCAA Division III this season.
Nogay, who is now 2-0 in NCAA games after firing a shutout versus Wooster last year at Marietta, had to work himself out of trouble throughout the early innings, including a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third. Nogay forced Bobby Czarnowski to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
"I just tried to throw the ball over the plate like always," said Nogay, who improved his career record to 21-1. "I need to give a lot of credit to the defense around me and Ronny Peirish behind the plate. Everyone did a great job today in all aspects of the game."
The Presidents got on the board first with a pair of runs in the fifth. Senior second baseman Scott Liller (Moon Township, Pa./Moon) touched home via a wild pitch and junior right fielder Josh Staniscia (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) lined a single up the middle to drive in classmate D.J. Michalski (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan).
The Titans (32-13), the 2010 national champions, quickly answered as they took the lead by plating three runs in the bottom of the frame, but W&J knotted the game 3-3 on freshman shortstop Michael Ruffing's (Brunswick, Ohio/St. Ignatius) two-out single in the sixth.
Liller reached base on a fielding error to begin the seventh and moved to second after Michalski worked a walk. IWU starting pitcher Jeff Johnson retired the next two batters, but junior Kyle McLain (East Amherst, N.Y./Canisius) delivered a clutch two-out, RBI single to left. Classmate Tyler Schultz (Strongsville, Ohio/Strongsville) followed with a run-scoring base hit to provide an insurance tally.
"Key two-out hits were the difference today," Mountain added. "The formula to win in the tournament is solid defense, pitching and timely hitting because the opportunity to score is not as prevalent as in the regular season."
All nine President starters recorded at least one hit, led by multi-hit efforts from Liller, senior center fielder Scott Brady (Allison Park, Pa./Hampton) and junior catcher Ronny Peirish (Wexford, Pa./Pine-Richland). Liller also scored a pair of runs and stole a base.
Johnson suffered his first loss in eight decisions this spring as he surrendered five runs (three earned) on 11 hits and fanned six. Jon Frericks led the Titan offense with three hits and one run scored.