CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The sixth-ranked Salisbury University baseball team is headed to the final round of the 2021 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship after scoring four runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally past the Cortland State Red Dragons, 11-8, on Sunday night and into Monday morning at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Scott Cameron opened up the late game with a bang, crushing a two-out solo home run that just stayed fair down the right field line, his second of the year. Stephen Rice followed with a single, then after Sky Rahill walked Cameron Hyder sliced a base hit into left center, scoring Rice to give the Sea Gulls an early 2-0 cushion.
- The Red Dragons had an immediate answer. After two singles and a groundout put men on second and third with one out, James Varian dropped a single into right center, scoring both runners to tie it at 2-2 after one inning.
- Salisbury swung the see-saw back in its favor in the second. With one out and men on the corners, Kavi Caster stroked an RBI single into right, and Cameron followed with a base knock into center to plate one more and make it 4-2 Sea Gulls.
- The teams traded a run each in the third inning. Rahill led off the top of the frame with a walk, then Hyder took his place on a fielder's choice and came around to score on a groundout, passed ball and wild pitch. In the home third, Cortland strung together three singles, with Scott Giordano's base hit bringing home a run to get it back to two runs at 5-3 Salisbury.
- The Sea Gulls scored in each of the next two frames to make it five straight scoring innings. Caster singled with one out in the fourth, stole second and came home two batters later on a Rice base knock to make it 6-3. With two on and two out in the fifth, Justin Meekins tagged an RBI single into left, pushing the SU lead to 7-3.
- Cortland came alive with two out in the bottom of the fifth to get back into it. Giordano, Varian and Daniel Coleman all singled to load the bases, and Giordano came home on a balk. Mat Bruno followed with an RBI infield hit to bring in Varian, and Coleman eventually scored when Bruno stole second and the throw from the catcher sailed into the outfield, cutting the Sea Gull lead to 7-6.
- The Red Dragons surged in front in the seventh. Varian led off with a single, then after a fielder's choice Bruno clubbed a two-run homer to left center, giving Cortland its first lead at 8-7.
- Jacob Ference was hit by a pitch to lead off the top of the ninth, and Trent Saunders came in to pinch run. After a foul out, Cullen McAuliffe singled to left, and Meekins walked to load the bases. Caster and Cameron then drew back-to-back hit-by-pitches to force in the tying and go-ahead runs. Rice came up next and hit into a fielder's choice at second plus a throwing error by the shortstop, allowing Meekins and Caster to score to make it 11-8.
- Aided by a spectacular catch in foul territory by Hyder in right, Benji Thalheimer finished off the Red Dragons in order in the ninth, sending the Sea Gull program into uncharted territory.
SALISBURY GAME NOTES
- Scott Cameron notched one of four three-hit nights for the Sea Gulls, going 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs, including the game-winning rib-eye on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
- Kavi Caster finished 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs, while Luke Weddell and Cullen McAuliffe each had three hits and scored twice from the eight- and nine-holes.
- Justin Meekins scored his 199th career run in the ninth inning, breaking the SU program record previously held by Pete Grasso. Meekins finished 1-for-5 with an RBI to go along with his record-breaking run.
- Freshman Benji Thalheimer (1-1) made his first appearance since May 8 and picked up his first career win, tossing 2.2 scoreless innings and allowing just one baserunner on a walk to finish off the win for Salisbury.
- Xavier Marmol lasted 4.2 innings in a start for the Sea Gulls, giving up six runs (five earned) on 12 hits.
- The Sea Gulls have now won 12 games in a row, including seven straight in the NCAA Tournament, to advance to the championship for the first time in program history. The farthest Salisbury had previously gone in the College World Series was in 2001 when SU made it to the second-to-last day and finished fourth.
CORTLAND STATE GAME NOTES
- Mat Bruno provided the pop for the Red Dragons, going 3-for-5 with a double, homer and three RBIs.
- Matthew Krafft, Colin BeVard and Scott Giordano combined to go 6-for-12 with four runs scored at the top of the Cortland lineup.
- Bailey Gauthier (6-3) blew a save situation and took the loss, giving up four runs (three earned) on two hits, one walk and three hit batsmen in the ninth inning.
- Shane Mugnolo made the start for Cortland, lasting 4.1 innings and giving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits.
- The Sea Gulls will play for their first national championship in program history, taking on the St. Thomas (Minn.) Tommies in championship round of the College World Series.
- Game 1 of the best-of-three series is set for Monday at 4:30 p.m. EDT/3:30 p.m. CDT.
- Game 2 will be played on Tuesday at 12:00 p.m. EDT/11:00 a.m. CDT, with Game 3 (if necessary) scheduled for 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.