Cougars Denied Tournament Crown, Await NCAA Selection Committee's Decision

More news about: Concordia-Chicago

May 13, 2018 – The Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference baseball tournament's final game was not one for the faint of heart. Coming on the heels of an 11-inning, 5-2 win, the Concordia-Chicago Cougars were within one win of completing an amazing 5-0 weekend to come back and win their sixth consecutive tournament title.

The Aurora Spartans nearly had CUC beaten in nine innings behind an amazing performance by NACC Pitcher of the Year Jacob Stockman, but the Cougars tied the game with two out in the ninth. The game was finally decided in the 13th inning as Aurora scored three times and then survived another rally by the Cougars to win 5-4.

The Cougars got the early jump in this game, thanks to the speed of lead-off man Jose Mercado. He was hit by Stockman's first pitch in the bottom of the first. Mercado then moved to second on an infield grounder, stole third base and scored on a wild pitch.

Stockman quickly settled down, and he did not allow another base runner until Bryan VanDuser singled to lead off the fourth. However, CUC starter Noah Dressler was up to the challenge. The sophomore kept the Spartans off-balance, getting five ground outs over the first three innings and allowing just one hit.

Aurora finally solved Dressler in the sixth as Austin Wiskow and Jett Wedekind delivered base hits with one out. Jeffery Mayes walked to load the bases, bringing Mike Stawski out of the dugout to summon Mike Formella. The Cougars' iron man struck out Davis Purviance on three pitches and then got ahead of Bryce DeSpain 1-2 before the Spartans' designated hitter lined one into center field for the tying and go-ahead runs.

The two-run rally would be all the Spartans needed as Stockman remained in control. The senior right-hander was getting quick outs, needing only 49 pitches to navigate six innings. Joe Silva worked a lead-off walk in the seventh and got to second with one out, but Stockman needed just two pitches to record the next two outs, and the Cougars were turned away again.

Down to their final out and Stockman still sailing along, the Cougars caught a reprieve when Massey's grounder to third was muffed as the first baseman could not scoop the throw out of the dirt. Aaron Wicker replaced Massey on the bases as Mitch Wilson came to bat. Wilson fell behind two strikes and then lifted a deep fly to left-center that neither outfielder could track down. Wicker was waved around third as Wilson wound up with a triple as CUC's fan section erupted. Stockman recovered to get Roberts for the final out and, for the second
time in the championship round, the game headed into extra innings.

Aurora looked to take the lead in the 12th, but CUC managed to escape behind a big defensive play. Cole Sparks led off with a double. The next batter grounded to third and the throw to first was errant. However, Sparks tried to score as the ball rolled a short distance away, but Jacob Frank threw to Kevin Coppin at home in time to nail Sparks.

The Cougars could not escape a similar jam in the 13th, however. A base hit started the inning, followed by an error on a sacrifice attempt. Bryan Larsen then hit a grounder to shortstop for what appeared to be a double play. The force was recorded at second, but the throw to first was in the dirt. The runner rounding third broke for home, and this time he made it for the go-ahead run. Sparks' RBI single and a sacrifice fly added two more runs, and this time the Cougars had a three-run mountain to climb.

A second last-minute comeback was not to happen, but not without a few anxious moments. Brandon doubled with one out, and Tyrell singled to make it a 5-3 game. The plot then thickened as Mercado was hit by a pitch, putting the tying run on base. Aurora went to their bullpen for sophomore Carter Turnquist. Van Duser ripped a line drive off the third baseman's glove to load the bases. Silva's grounder and force at second scored a run, but Turnquist then induced Frank to ground out to short for the final out of a highly intense tournament final.

With the win, Aurora gains the automatic bid to one of eight NCAA III regionals. Concordia-Chicago (33-12) still has a strong chance to receive an at-large bid based on regional ranking and strength of schedule but will await the decision of the selection committee. Their fate should be known some time on Sunday evening.