Courtesy of Concordia University Chicago
APPLETON, Wis. -- The pervasive feeling going into tonight's game between the Concordia University Chicago Cougars and the Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs was watching two heavyweight fighters duking it out. However, this bout saw the Cougars landing a lot of the early punches, and they were in control the rest of the evening as they beat the Bulldogs by a final score of 8-3.
Head coach Mike Stawski credited last night's win over Swarthmore in large part to the Cougars' quick start, and that would be the case tonight as well. After TLU starter Dylan Drgac retired the first batter of the game, Bryan VanDuser rifled a shot down the third-base line. The ball hung up in the left-field corner, and VanDuser was able to hustle it into a triple. Joe Silva wasted no
time driving in his fifth run of the series with a sacrifice fly to right for the early lead.
VanDuser said after the game that, "(the triple) felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was frustrated yesterday because they were jamming me inside, and when I was able to pull this one down the line and I wasn't jammed, it felt amazing…my confidence is back, and I feel good."
Another three-bagger helped CUC double its lead in the second. After Brady Roberts walked with one out, catcher Kevin Coppin lined one to the alley in right-center. The ball rolled to the wall as Roberts had no trouble scoring. However, the Cougars were denied more in the inning as Drgac came back to strike out the next two hitters.
"We're not really a homerun hitting team, we're a line drive hitting team," said Stawski. "In a big ballpark like this one, we work the gaps which is to our advantage, and I think with the triples especially, that is what you're seeing here."
The first two innings were just a warm-up for the third when the Cougars truly came out swinging. Jose Mercado led off with a single, VanDuser followed with a walk, and CUC was in business. Silva then had one of the at-bats of the season, going to 2-2 and fouling off seven two-strike pitches. Pitch number 13 was a changeup, and he hit a sharp grounder past the diving second baseman into right field, scoring Mercado and sending VanDuser to third. The hit was Silva's fourth and his sixth RBI in just 12 innings of the World Series.
Concordia-Chicago was not finished in the third. Andrew Massey, who returned to the lineup after missing the last five games, slashed a double down the right-field line to score VanDuser and keep runners on the corners. Mitch Wilson's sacrifice fly added a third run, and when Coppin walked with two out, the Bulldogs went to the bullpen for Jacob Wieder. Connor Brandon greeted Wieder with a single to right-center, Massey coming around to give the Cougars a four-run inning as a 6-0 lead.
Weider would do a good job quieting down the CUC bats over the next few innings. The Bulldogs took advantage by climbing back into the game, scoring a single run in the third and then two in the fifth. Fortunately, Keaton Conner was able to limit the damage by getting TLU cleanup hitter Tyler Cauley to fly to center with a man on base to end the threat.
The Cougars finally were able to extend the lead with single runs in the sixth and seventh. The run in the sixth was unearned as Mercado reached base on an error and later scored on a double play. The seventh inning tally came as Robert hit the Cougars' third triple of the night, a ball that one-hopped the wall in left-center and bounded away from the center fielder. Coppin then drove in Roberts with a fly to medium-deep left field.
Mike Formella came on to pitch in the seventh, and the Bulldog batters were unable to get much of anything going. He allowed just one hit, a one-out double to Cauley in the eighth, but was able to snuff that out on a couple of infield grounders. Formella earned his 15th save with his three innings of work, and he now becomes the career leader in saves with 23.
The Cougars (40-13) will advance to the 7:45 game Sunday evening against the winner of the 1:15 game between Texas Lutheran and Swarthmore College. The Cougars will need just one win over that team to advance to the final round of the World Series while the opposing team would have to beat the Cougars tomorrow and then again on Monday.