CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The sixth-ranked Salisbury University baseball team moved to within one win of the final round of the College World Series, outlasting the Wheaton (Mass.) Lyons, 11-9, in the 2021 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship on Saturday night and into Sunday morning at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Similar to Friday night, the Sea Gulls were unbothered by a multi-hour delay and 11:00 p.m. local start to the game. Justin Meekins and Kavi Caster led off the top of the first with back-to-back singles, then after a sac bunt by Scott Cameron, Stephen Rice lifted a sac fly into left, scoring Meekins to give SU an early 1-0 lead.
- The Lyons wasted no time grabbing back the early momentum, though. With men on the corners and two out Mark D'Augelli skipped a bad-hop RBI single past second to tie the game. Stephen Quigley singled home the go-ahead run, then Andrew Spirito doubled home another to put Wheaton on top 3-1.
- Salisbury answered immediately in the second. Cameron Hyder dropped in a bloop double to lead off, then after a groundout Luke Weddell dropped a base hit into left, scoring Hyder to get the Sea Gulls back within 3-2.
- In the fourth, Rice singled to lead off, then Sky Rahill shot a grounder to second that resulted in an error to put men on the corners. Hyder brought home the tying run on a sac fly, then Jacob Ference kept the rally going with a single. Rahill was thrown out at the plate on a single to right by Luke Weddell, but Cullen McAuliffe worked a walk to load the bases and Meekins tagged a two-run single into left, putting Salisbury back in front 5-3.
- Quigley led off the bottom of the fourth with a double, eventually scoring on a wild pitch to get the Lyons back within one at 5-4.
- The teams traded solo home runs in the sixth, with Ference padding the Sea Gull lead with a blast to left, his third of the season, and Spirito answering with his own shot to left, making it 6-5 Salisbury.
- Caster launched a solo dinger of his own deep to right center in the seventh, his sixth of the year, rebuilding the Sea Gull lead to 7-5.
- The Lyons threatened in the bottom of the seventh, putting men on first and second with no out. Brock Hilligoss came in from the bullpen and promptly got D'Augelli to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, striking out Quigley to get out of the jam.
- The Sea Gulls parlayed the escape act in the seventh into a big eighth. With men on the corners and one out, Weddell laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to bring in a run, then McAuliffe singled up the middle to bring home another. Meekins came up next and scratched out his fourth hit of the night, an RBI single to left center. Caster followed with an RBI groundout to make it a four-run inning and an 11-5 Sea Gull lead.
- Wheaton got all four runs back in the bottom of the eighth. With the bases loaded and one out, George Mulcahey brought home the first run on a groundout. Jacob Studley banged a double off the wall in left to score two, and Studley scored on a Zach DeMattio base knock, making it a two-run game again at 11-9 Salisbury.
- After Quigley socked a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth, Brandon Epstein came in and retired the next three in a row, getting a spectacular diving catch from Cameron in left for the second out, to nail down the save and put the Sea Gulls in the Pool B driver's seat.
SALISBURY GAME NOTES
- Justin Meekins rapped out four of the Sea Gulls' 17 hits on the night, finishing 4-for-5 with a run and three RBIs. With a run scored in the first inning, Meekins now has 198 for his career, tying an SU program record held by Pete Grasso (2014-17).
- Kavi Caster hit his fifth home run in his last nine games, going 2-for-5 with a pair of rib-eyes.
- Jacob Ference went 3-for-5 with a solo home run and three runs scored, while Luke Weddell had three hits, drove in two runs and scored two of his own.
- Corey Burton (4-0) earned his fourth win since the beginning of the regional round, tossing two innings of one-run, three-hit ball in the fifth and sixth. Burton walked a pair and fanned a pair.
- All-American starter Clayton Dwyer lasted four-plus innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. Dwyer has now struck out 103 batters over 74 innings this year, becoming just the fourth Sea Gull pitcher to ever hit triple digit strikeouts in one season. Dwyer's 103 Ks tie him with Chris Greiner's 2011 mark for third-most in single-season program history.
- Brock Hilligoss handled the seventh and eighth, while Brandon Epstein earned his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
- The win marks the first time since 2001 that Salisbury has won at two games in the College World Series. After going 2-2 in their first appearance in 2001, the Sea Gulls had gone 1-8 in their next four CWS trips.
WHEATON GAME NOTES
- Stephen Quigley powered the Lyons attack from the middle of the order, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, one run and one RBI.
- Andrew Spirito finished 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs, while Jacob Studley went 2-for-4 with a double, run and two driven in.
- Gavin Reily (6-3) was undone by his defense and got knocked out in the fourth, surrendering five runs (two earned) on eight hits in 3.2 frames.
- The Sea Gulls advance within the winners' bracket of Pool B at the Division III College World Series and will once again play in the fourth scheduled game of the day on Sunday, which is due to start at 8:45 p.m. EDT/7:45 p.m. CDT.
- Salisbury will meet the winner of the Sunday afternoon elimination game between Cortland State and Wheaton, set for 5:30 p.m. EDT/4:30 p.m. CDT.
- If the Sea Gulls win on Sunday night they will advance into the best-of-three CWS championship round. A loss would force a winner-take-all rematch against the Cortland-Wheaton winner on Monday.