CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The sixth-ranked Salisbury University baseball team arrived at the doorstep of its first national title, besting the 19th-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) Tommies, 6-1, in Game 1 of the best-of-three 2021 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship finals on Monday afternoon at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Tommies threatened to put the Sea Gulls in a deep hole almost immediately, loading the bases with no out in the top of the first on three straight singles. SU starter Jackson Balzan mitigated the damage, though, forcing Charlie Bartholomew to ground into a run-scoring double play and striking out Kevin Halverson to end the inning with his team in a mere 1-0 hole.
- Sky Rahill led off the bottom of the second with a single and advanced to second on a Cameron Hyder sacrifice bunt. That brought up Jacob Ference, who scorched an 0-2 pitch down the left-field line and over the wall for a line drive two-run home run. Ference's fourth round-tripper of the year and second of the College World Series gave Salisbury a 2-1 lead.
- The Sea Gulls put some distance between themselves and their foes in the bottom of the fifth. Stephen Rice led off with a single and promptly stole second. After a lineout and a flyout, Ference was hit by a pitch to put two on, and Luke Weddell slashed a bad-hop double over the first baseman and into right, scoring Rice and Ference. Cullen McAuliffe followed by threading the needle up the middle for an RBI single to make it 5-1 Salisbury.
- In the sixth, Rice led off with a double, took third on a Rahill groundout and scored on a Hyder sac fly to left, pushing the Sea Gull lead to 6-1, where it would stay till the final out.
- Clayton Dwyer relieved Balzan in the sixth and kept UST from seizing any kind of momentum, mowing the Tommies down for the final four innings and getting fantastic catches from Kavi Caster in left and Hyder in right.
SALISBURY GAME NOTES
- Stephen Rice had his biggest game of the College World Series, going 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. Rice only had three hits combined in his first three games in Cedar Rapids.
- The seven, eight and nine hitters continued to come up huge for the Sea Gulls, with Jacob Ference, Luke Weddell and Cullen McAuliffe combining to go 4-for-11 with a double, homer, three runs scored and four RBIs.
- Working on two days' rest after pitching a complete game on Friday night, Jackson Balzan (9-1) showed no sign of breaking down over five-plus dominant innings. Balzan gave up one run on five hits, walking two and striking out three, and allowed only four more baserunners after the Tommies loaded the bases with no out in the first.
- Consensus Second-Team All-American Clayton Dwyer earned his second save of the year, giving up just one hit over four scoreless innings in relief and punching out four. With 107 strikeouts, Dwyer now stands in sole possession of third on the SU single-season strikeout leaderboard.
- The Sea Gulls remain undefeated in the NCAA Tournament, picking up their eighth straight win in the dance and 13th straight overall.
ST. THOMAS GAME NOTES
- Sam Kluesa went 1-for-4 and scored the Tommies' only run of the game on Charlie Bartholomew's double play in the first inning.
- Jake Porter went 2-for-2 at the plate but left the game with an injury in right field in the fifth inning.
- UST scratched out only six singles in the game, half of which came in the first inning when the team loaded the bases and only produced one run.
- Duke Coborn (5-1) took the loss in his first appearance of the College World Series, surrendering five runs on 10 hits in 4.2 frames.
- The Sea Gulls need to win one of a possible two games on Tuesday afternoon to bring home their first national championship in program history.
- First pitch of Game 2 between Salisbury and St. Thomas is set for 12 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. CDT. If the Tommies win Game 2, a winner-take-all Game 3 will start approximately 50 minutes after its conclusion.