NCAA Division II National Finals - Game 4: No. 4 St. Edward's Defeats No. 7 Grand Canyon 1-0
Brannon Easterling pitched a six-hit shutout and St. Edward's scored the lone run of the game on a double steal in the fourth inning as the nationally fourth-ranked Hilltoppers defeated No. 7 Grand Canyon 1-0 in a match-up of two teams making their National Finals debuts in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals Sunday at Cary, N.C. The National Finals are co-hosted by Town of Cary and Mount Olive College at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
St. Edward's plays No. 1 Tampa in a winner's bracket game Tuesday at 7 p.m., while Grand Canyon faces No. 3 Coker in an elimination game Tuesday at 3 p.m. Tampa defeated Coker 12-4 in Sunday's first game.
Easterling (14-3) moved into a tie for first in the nation in wins, while tossing his nation-leading 14th complete game of the season. After retiring the side in order in the bottom of the first, he hit two batters and allowed at least one baserunner in each of the next five innings. He stranded two Grand Canyon runners in the second and third innings and St. Edward's catcher C.J. Manning threw a runner out attempting to steal second in the fifth inning.
St. Edward's (42-16) provided Easterling with all the run support he needed in the top of the fourth. The Hilltoppers put runners on the corners on Cutter Runte's leadoff single and Nate Bobrowski's walk after a sacrifice and a groundout. After Bobrowski broke for second and got himself caught in a rundown, Runte took off from third and beat the throw to the plate.
Grand Canyon (39-17) had its best scoring chance in the bottom of the sixth as Michael Pomeroy led off with a single to left and went to second on Derek Mendoza's sacrifice. One out later, Steven Swingle singled to right and Pomeroy was waved around third. But Hilltopper right fielder Joe Pirozzolo's throw beat Pomeroy to the plate to keep the Antelopes off the scoreboard.
Easterling allowed only one baserunner over the final three innings, retiring the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings on only seven pitches in each inning. He issued his only walk of the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before ending the game on a called strike three, his second strikeout of the inning and seventh of the game.
Grand Canyon starter Andrew Naderer (9-3) took the hard luck complete game loss. Naderer also struck out seven and finished with a five-hitter.
Sunday's contest marked the first National Finals meeting between two first-timers since 2009 – the first year the National Finals were in Cary – when Mesa State (now Colorado-Mesa) faced Belmont Abbey.
This year's tournament also marks the first time in NCAA II National Finals history that two games ended in 1-0 results. Franklin Pierce defeated Shippensburg 1-0 Saturday. Three of the first four games in this year's tournament have been shutouts.
"I told (Grand Canyon head coach) Andy (Stankiweitz) we were a dropped ball away from playing all night. The pitching was outstanding. Their lefty was the toughest we have faced all season. He pitched his guts out and Brandon (Easterling) pitched his guts out. It's just one game, but it is better to be 1-0 than 0-1."
St. Edward's head coach Rob Penders
"I really don't think about the other guy. I do like Coach says and play against the ball. I stay with my same approach and sort of do my own thing."
St. Edward's starting Pitcher Brannon Easterling on outdueling Grand Canyon starter Andrew Naderer
"I felt like we had it. Coach was letting me know to stay with it. It is something that we work on a lot. I felt pretty comfortable doing it, the right opportunity arose, and we capitalized."
St. Edward's left fielder Cutter Runte on the double steal in the fourth inning
"It was a heck of a ballgame. In postseason, this is what it looks like. You have very good pitching and good defense. It was an old school type of matchup with two great pitchers going at it and both teams trying to scratch across a couple runs. I'm proud of our guys. We need to regroup and come back on Tuesday."
Grand Canyon head coach Andy Stankiewicz
"I just treat it like any other game. I'm a competitor and like pressure situations and showing people what I have. I just wanted to go out and throw my stuff and see what happens."
Grand Canyon pitcher Andrew Naderer