By Carthage Sports Information Director Steve Marovich
The unlikely season continues. The Carthage College baseball team (30-14) advanced to the championship round of the NCAA Central Region Championship on Saturday, May 16 by eliminating No. 16 Wartburg 4-1, at Waterloo Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo, Iowa.
Carthage lost its first-round game at the on Wednesday, May 13, losing a 4-3 heartbreaker to No. 24 Webster University (31-13). In the other two first-round games, top-seeded and No. 8 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (32-12) defeated sixth-seeded Greenville College (22-20), 7-4, with third-seeded and No. 16 Wartburg (32-13) falling to fourth-seeded and No. 38 Anderson University (32-11) by a 4-3 margin.
The second day of the regional on Thursday, May 14 was rained out. When play resumed on Friday, May 15, Carthage eliminated Greenville College (22-21), 10-2. In Friday's second game, Wartburg (33-13) defeated Wisconsin-Stevens Point (32-13), 4-2, with Webster (32-13) edging Anderson (32-12), 4-3, in the late game. On Saturday, May 15, Wisconsin-Stevens Point (33-13) eliminated Anderson (32-13), 7-4, before Webster (34-13) eliminated the Pointers (33-14), 4-2. Carthage takes on Webster (34-13) in a Noon championship-round game on Sunday, May 17, but the Red Men will have to beat the Gorloks twice to win the regional title.
In Saturday's game, Carthage took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI-double by Matt Rave. Wartburg tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Thurman off starting pitcher and sometimes closer Luke Mentkowski (Jr., (Jr., Greenfield, Wis./Whitnall, 5-0). That run was the first earned run off Mentkowski in 29 and two-thirds innings this season. Mentkowski allowed only three singles over the first eight innings, two of those in the sixth. The Red Men took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth on a two-run homer by Matt Rave, just inside the leftfield foul pole. Rave connected on an RBI-double in the eighth to up Carthage's lead to 4-1.
Jackson Litterer led off the Wartburg ninth with flare single to right-center. Jacob Thurman flied out for the first out. Ryan Kemp grounded out to force Littered at second, and D.J. Utley popped up to Mentkowski to end the game. Mentkowski, who also started and won the title game of last weekend's CCIW Baseball Tournament, has allowed but one earned run in two post-season starts. On Saturday, Mentkowski allowed one run on four hits, a walk and four strikeouts. Max Langheinrich (5-3) took the loss and surrendered four runs on nine hits over seven innings. Reed Hero (So., Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) went four-for-four for the Red Men, while Matt Rave (So., Bloomington, Ill./Central Catholic) went three-for-four with two doubles, a home run and four RBI.
"Is this unbelievable or what?" asked Carthage coach Augie Schmidt IV. "I would have bet against this happening, but this group is amazing. We have also found one heck of a pitcher in Luke Mentkowski. He threw strikes and pounded the strike zone. Wartburg is as good of a team as we've played in a few years. For Mentkowski to throw a game a like that really says something about him. He pitches to contact, and as long as we play good defense, which we did, he's a pitcher. I'm getting it rubbed into me pretty good for not starting him earlier. He was the story today, along with Matt Rave, who had three big extra-base hits. We're getting into that zone where somebody different picks us up, offensively. That's what you want to see. If we play good tomorrow, we have a chance. If we play bad, we'll lose."