North Central Improves to 2-0 at Central Regional

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SAUGET, Ill. (May 19, 2017) – Battling back from a three-run, first inning deficit, the North Central College baseball team rallied to score eight unanswered runs while the Cardinal pitching staff posted zeroes over the final eight innings to defeat Wartburg College, 8-3 and improve to 2-0 at the 2017 NCAA Division III Central Region Championship.
Wartburg (32-13) opened the contest with a walk before a ground ball to third was thrown into right field on a double play attempt to put runners on second and third with one out.  Jacob Thumann followed with a no doubt three-run homerun to left, off Cardinal starter Evan Blunk, giving the Knights an early 3-0 lead but that proved to be all the scoring the Wartburg offense would generate the rest of the night.
After allowing the first-inning homer, Blunk settled down nicely to blank the Knights over the next six innings while the Cardinal offense piled on the run support starting with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first to immediately answer the Knights crooked number.
Michael Mateja lined a 2-1 fastball back up the middle to lead off the frame, while Jeremy Quade followed with a base hit the other way, advancing Mateja to third, while taking second on the failed attempt to nab Mateja at third.  Nick Sotiros and Chris Hill each followed with RBI groundouts to pull North Central to within one after one.
The Cardinal scoring barrage continued in the bottom of the third, as Quade singled for the second time to center before Sotiros launched a 2-2 pitch over the monster of a wall in left field while giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead in the process.
North Central (27-16) added another run in the fourth on a Matt Sutherland RBI single, scoring Sing Fong, while plating three more unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth to take total control of the contest and a 8-3 lead.
Blunk's only real scare came in the top of the seventh as the Knights had the bases loaded and the heart of the lineup coming to bat with leading homerun hitter Tumann at the plate.  After a mound meeting, the senior was left in the contest and proved exactly why by striking out Thumann and Cody Hyler, both swinging, to end the frame and escape the jam.
Blunk was pulled in the top of the eighth after Mike Brown reached on a wild pitch after striking out, while another Cardinal error allowed runners to advance to second and third with just one out.
Bringing in Anthony Serafini with the third pitching change of the inning, Serafini quickly struck out Austin Lechtenberg on four pitches before inducing a groundout to shortstop to end the frame.
Nick Rogalski came in for the final out to secure the win for Blunk, as Blunk improves to 6-2 on the season with the win, scattering six hits over his seven innings, striking out four.
Quade finished 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored to pace the Cardinal offense, while Sutherland was 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBI.  Fong added a pair of hits and two runs scored, while Sotiros drove home three and Mateja increased his reached base streak to 38 games with his first inning single.
North Central has now won 12 of their last 13 contests and advances to take on 6th-ranked Birmingham Southern College in a battle of the last two unbeaten teams tomorrow at noon at GCS Ballpark.