Courtesy of Concordia University Chicago
APPLETON, Wis. -- The final Division III World Series in Appleton, WI got underway today. The Concordia-Chicago Cougars, one of two teams back here for the second consecutive year, took on one of the five first-time participants today, Swarthmore College from Pennsylvania. Both teams put pressure on the pitchers all night, but the Cougars had the edge in clutch hits and also had homers by the eight and nine spots in the order to take down Swarthmore by a final score of 9-4.
Brian Musielak was on the mound today, five days after he threw a 128-pitch gem in a 7-1 win over the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, one of two games the Cougars had to win Sunday to get back here to Appleton. Musielak started by retiring the first two batters on five pitches before issuing a two-out pass. However, clean-up batter Jackson Roberts lined to left fielder Connor Brandon just in front of the warning track to retire the side and bring CUC up to bat.
Swarthmore's ace Ricky Conti took the hill for the Garnet, but the CUC bats were ready. Jose Mercado remained on a hot streak by slapping a single past the diving shortstop. Bryan VanDuser was then plunked by an 0-1 pitch, putting the Cougars in business. Joe Silva was next, and he cashed in with a line drive to the gap in right-center that went for a two-run triple. Two batters later, Brady Roberts lifted a soft single just over the third baseman's head for a 3-0 lead.
The Garnet attempted a comeback in the second, loading the bases with two out, but Musielak retired A.J. Liu on a fly to right to end the threat. Musielak was not so lucky in the third, however. Charles Levitt led off with a drive to the right field fence that just missed being a homer by about six inches. His double was followed by Cole Beeker's ground single to right and Roberts' opposite-field double for Swarthmore's first run. Musielak settled down and got the next three batters, although a sacrifice fly by Jared Gillen narrowed CUC's lead to 3-2.
Concordia-Chicago appeared to be ceding some momentum until the bottom of the fourth when Keegan Tyrell came to bat. Hitting after Brandon had led off with a single, Tyrell missed at a couple of attempts to get the sacrifice bunt down. But with the count at 1-2, Tyrell got a pitch he could handle, and he hit a rope to center field that just cleared the wall for a two-run homer. Tyrell's fifth of the year made the score CUC 5, SC 2.
Musielak settled down after the Garnet's two-run rally and even more after Tyrell's homer. He induced a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth to erase a CUC error, and he added two strikeouts to end the Swarthmore sixth. The Cougars then doubled their cushion in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon led off with a golf shot over the high wall, hitting the scoreboard in center for his fourth homer of the season. Tyrell continued the rally by beating out an infield single. One out later, VanDuser drew a walk and ended the day for SC starter Conti. Swarthmore went to the bullpen for a lefty to counter the Cougars' combination of Silva and Mitch Wilson. However, after VanDuser stole second base, Silva foiled the strategy and beat a three-man shift on the right side of the infield by smashing a hit off the first baseman's glove. Tyrell and VanDuser both scored as CUC grabbed an 8-2 lead.
The Garnet were not ready to go quietly yet. With two out in the seventh, they pushed across a run and put two more men on the bases before Musielak got Gillen to fly to center. Musielak gave way to Meyers to start the eighth, and the Garnet loaded the bases this time, getting the tying run to the on-deck circle before Meyers fanned Beeker to keep the score at 8-3.
Concordia-Chicago added an insurance run in the eighth as Silva singled and then scored with two out on Roberts' fourth hit of the night, a double to the gap in right-center. That score helped to offset a Swarthmore run in the ninth on doubles by Elliott and Gillen.
After the game, Coach Stawski credited the Cougars' fast start as a key ingredient to victory. "Everyone's going to talk about the two home runs, but I think that Joe Silva's at-bat in the first may have been the most important play of the game. It gave us a lead that we never looked back on and helped us relax, which made it easier for our offense to score some more runs later." Stawski also credited his pitchers for being able to strand 13 Garnet runners on base, noting that "when you get runners on base and don't score them, you can feel the momentum shift in the dugout. We were able to shut them down a few times when they felt they might score and, not coincidentally, we would come back and score."
The Cougars (39-13) will advance to the 7:45 game tomorrow evening against either the College of Wooster or Texas Lutheran University.