2013 NCAA II Baseball National Finals - Game Six: Minnesota State Defeats Franklin Pierce 10-5
Lucas Skjefte homered in the first inning and doubled in two runs in a four-run eighth inning as nationally second-ranked Minnesota State withstood a rally and defeated No. 11 Franklin Pierce 10-5 in a winner's bracket game 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.
Minnesota State (41-8) is off until Thursday at 7 p.m. and is just one win away from reaching the championship game. Franklin Pierce (37-18) takes on No. 14 Grand Valley State Wednesday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game. Grand Valley State stayed alive with an 8-4 win over No. 17 Shippensburg in Monday's first game.
Minnesota State built a quick 6-0 lead, thanks in part to a wild five-run third inning that saw three Franklin Pierce errors, including two on one play that cleared the bases. Skjefte's first-inning solo home run came with one out and was his fourth of the season.
In the bottom of the third, Skjefte reached on an error after Parker Sullivan led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Sullivan scored on a second wild pitch and Minnesota State extended the lead to 3-0 on Nolan Johnson's one-out double to left-center. The Mavericks then loaded the bases on back-to-back walks.
Franklin Pierce second baseman Justin Brock made a diving stop behind the second base back on Scott Lindner's grounder up the middle and flipped to second for the force. Johnson scored on the force and another run came in when the throw to first was off-target. Lindner went to second and came all the way home on an errant throw to third to give Minnesota State a six-run lead.
Mavericks starter Harvey Martin (9-0) retired the first 10 batters he faced before Dan Kemp doubled with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Despite being limited to one hit through four innings, Franklin Pierce went on to outhit Minnesota State 12-11 for the game.
Franklin Pierce got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth as Matthew O'Herron's single through the right side drove in Matt Walsh with the Ravens' first run of the game. A two-out error in the seventh helped allow the Ravens to score four unearned runs and get back into the contest.
After O'Herron reached on an error, No. 9 batter Justin Brock and leadoff batter Calvin Graves followed with back-to-back singles. Dan Kemp, who went 4-for-5, singled home Brock to make it a 6-3 game. Zach Mathieu greeted reliever Chris Williams with a double to the gap in left-center to drive in Graves and Kemp and pull the Ravens within 6-5.
Minnesota State had a chance to add to its lead in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second and one out. Franklin Pierce turned an unusual double play when the infield fly rule was invoked on a pop-up to the left side. The ball was dropped, but the runner on first tried to advance and got tagged out by Mathieu oversliding the bag going back to first.
Mavericks closer Mahlon Zimmerman took over to start the eighth, but Franklin Pierce got the potential go-ahead run on base as Marty Dunlap led off with a single and O'Herron singled one out later. Zimmerman got out of trouble on a come-backer to the mound and an infield pop-up.
Minnesota State gave Zimmerman some insurance in the bottom of the eighth as Todd Standish and Sullivan opened the inning with singles. Skjefte laced a double down the left field line to bring in both runners as the Mavericks extended their lead to 8-5. Lindner added a two-run single to close out the scoring.
Zimmerman overcame Kemp's leadoff double in the top of the ninth to earn his 10th save of the season.
Franklin Pierce starter Steve Hathaway (0-3) went 2 1/3 innings and took the loss. Doug Willey, the third of six Ravens pitchers, struck out four in 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
"They are a very good team, and good teams like that are going to find a way to stay in the game. I thought they did a good job of getting different pitchers in there to keep the score where it was at. For us to score in the first inning with Lucas' (Skjefte) big hit gave us an opportunity, I thought, to slow their running game down."
Minnesota State head coach Matt Magers
"I just come in and try to throw strikes the best I can. With these guys, they are such a good hitting team that I really had to spot up and focus on hitting my spots out there."
Minnesota State relief pitcher Mahlon Zimmerman
"Oh, they'll rally themselves, I'm not too concerned about it. We're not eliminated, we lost one game. So, we're planning on playing a good game our next time out. We're not too concerned about it. We're just going to be focused on this next game and the game that happened tonight is over with. There's nothing we can do about it now, we'll start to focus on what we need to do better on Wednesday."
Franklin Pierce head coach Jayson King on rallying the team after Monday's loss