Linfield baseball only undefeated team left in Appleton

Special to the News-Register

APPLETON, Wis. — That’s why they play the whole game.

Stymied for most of the game by UW-Stevens Point pitcher Ben Messenger, the Linfield Wildcats clawed their way back and scored a 5-3 victory Sunday over the Pointers in the NCAA Division III College World Series and are now the only undefeated team left in the tournament.

Down 3-0 in the seventh, the Wildcats (40-7) scored five runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined to put away the Pointers and punch their ticket into the championship final.

Point jumped out to the early lead, with Jimmy Coady driving in Dan Douglas with a sacrifice fly. They pushed two more across in the seventh. Messenger held the Wildcats’ bats in check until the seventh, when they finally broke through and scored two runs. In the eighth, Messenger hit the first batter he faced in the inning, Michael Hopp, and was pulled. Tim Wilson greeted his replacement with a triple off the right-center field fence to drive in Hopp and tie the game.

“I kind of caught a pattern with that at bat in particular,” Wilson said. “I was sitting breaking ball on that pitch, and a he caught a little bit too much of the plate, and I was able to get good barrel on it. That’s exactly what I was trying to do, make good contact with two strikes.”

After an intentional walk to Nick Fisher, Jake Wylie lifted a sac fly to right field to score Wilson. Fisher scored on a single by Kramer Lindell to complete the scoring.

“There is no script,” Wildcats coach Scott Brosius said. “We would love to come in, get a lead, build a lead and put the game away, but it doesn’t always work that way. We practice the seven, eight and nine innings. That is something we talk a lot about, and I am sure they do too. They have had that ability to come back late in the game. We know that these games are 27 outs. It isn’t the end until there are 27 outs.”

The game featured a great pitching performance from both teams. Messenger went seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits. He didn’t walk anyone and had one strikeout. Linfield’s Zach Brandon went seven innings as well, scattered nine hits while giving up three runs. He struck out five and walked one.

“He was throwing multiple pitches for strikes, which always makes for a tough day when you can’t eliminate pitches,” Linfield’s Clayton Truex said of Messenger.  “He started getting into a pattern with my at bats. And when it rains it pours, we really started breaking through, whether be my hits or someone else’s.”

Truex’s RBI double in the seventh started the scoring for the Wildcats.

“We told the boys that it was going to be a heavyweight fight between two really good teams and going toe to toe, and it certainly was that,” UW-SP coach Pat Bloom said. “Tip of the cap to Linfield and their ball club. They certainly have a solid team and they battled all the way through and got us in the end.”

The Wildcats have earned their spot in the championship final on Tuesday, regardless of the outcome of their game against Ithaca Monday afternoon. If the Wildcats win, whomever they play for the title on Tuesday will have to beat them twice to earn the trophy.

Game two recap from Saturday

They just keep rolling along.

After holding off a furious rally in their first game at the NCAA Division III College World Series, the Linfield Wildcats left little doubt who the team to beat is with a 10-1 drubbing Saturday of Southern Maine.

“It was a little bit more comfortable finish today than it was yesterday. We did a real good job of getting a lead early and continuing to build and getting runners on base and pushing offensively,” Linfield coach Scott Brosius said. “Aaron (Thomassen) did a great job throwing strikes and working ahead of hitters. When they put the ball in play, we made the plays. That’s what we need to do.”

The Wildcats jumped all over the Huskies early, scoring five runs off of Southern Maine starter Logan Carman in the first inning. A First-Team All American, Carman didn’t make it out of the first inning, perhaps showing lingering effects from an injury suffered during the New England Regional.

“Logan was hit with a line drive in the forearm in the regional and it was badly contused. He was day to day, and I was trying to put him off a little which is why he didn’t start yesterday,” USM head coach Ed Flaherty said. “I could have put him off another day, but another day wasn’t going to make a difference. He thought he was ready to go, like any competitor would be, and it wasn’t there.”

Carman was only the first Southern Maine pitcher to struggle. The Huskies used a Division III CWS record 10 pitchers in the game, and none of them could completely solve the juggernaut that was Linfield’s offense. The Wildcats rapped out 17 hits, including three extra base hits.

“Well, we got bumped and we got bumped pretty good,” Flaherty said. “That is a good team that Linfield has got. They are well coached and they threw up a bunch of hits and we got behind the eight ball early,” Flaherty said. “I thought their pitcher Thomassen did a really, really good job and what have to do from here on out is to get our bats going to get back in this thing.”

Thomassen, a sophomore from Seattle, Wash., threw a complete game, scattering six hits and giving up one run. He had nine strikeouts.

“I am always very comfortable when pitching with a lead,” Thomassen said. “Makes my job easy. I just throw strikes. I throw fastballs and make them hit the ball.”

By contrast, the Wildcats saw a different arm nearly every inning.

“That is part and parcel of what this tournament is,” Brosius said. “You have seen any of these teams before, you haven’t seen their arms before. You don’t have much of a scouting report, so it is pretty much read and react. They certainly gave us a bunch of different looks today once their starter came out.”

Every player in the batting order got a hit for the Wildcats, and they were led by designated hitter Jake Wylie. The junior First-Team All-American was 2-for-4 with a towering home run and two RBIs.

“I just stick with the same approach I have been using all year,” Wylie said. “We are seeing the ball real well, both today and for the tournament. It’s getting your pitch, picking that zone and hitting that ball on the line.”

The Wildcats play Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Game 1 recap from Friday

APPLETON, Wis. — When you are the No. 1-ranked team in the country, you are going to get the A-game of every opponent.

Game two of the NCAA Division III College World Series between No. 1-ranked Linfield College and No. 7-ranked Ithaca (N.Y.) College was no exception. 

The Wildcats (39-7) jumped out to a seven-run lead and escaped with an 8-6 victory Friday after fighting off a furious late rally by the Bombers.

Early on, the Wildcats were able to get some offensive production and turn that into a big lead. With D3baseball.com Pitcher of the Year Chris Haddeland, things looked promising.

“It is great to capture momentum early in the game,” Linfield coach Scott Brosius said. “The key is to try to keep it … you go in with the mentality that there is never enough runs.”

That mentality was needed. Although Haddeland cruised through the first sixth innings, he was touched up for six straight singles in the seventh, and the Bombers were able to cut in to the lead. 

Ithaca kept chipping away at the Wildcats lead with three more runs off reliever Justin Huckins in the eighth. Singles by Tim Locastro and Tim Henry led to one run, while Max Addy drove in another and Corey Caswell scored on a passed ball.

Linfield brought in Joe Stevick to close out the game in the ninth, but it was not without some tense moments. An error led to another base runner for the Bombers, followed by a single and a hit batsman. Colby Gee hit a sac fly to drive in a run, and Matt Connolly nearly cleared the bases before a diving catch ended the game.

The Wildcats were led by Tim Wilson, who scored three times, including one in the first inning after he led the game off with a stand-up double.

“As a leadoff hitter, my job is to create momentum for the team,” Wilson said. “One of my biggest strengths as a player is my enthusiasm for the game so when I got that leadoff double I knew it was a big hit for us. I knew Corey (VanDomelen) would at least get me over and with the middle of the lineup I knew we were going to score.” 

Wilson also hit an eighth-inning home run.

“That is what you would expect,” Brosius said. “Everyone here is good, they’re here because they battle their way through tough games like that. You certainly didn’t expect that team to go away.”

Linfield will take on Southern Maine at 2:30 p.m. PDT Saturday in the winners bracket at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton.

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