Catawba Ends NCAA Run for FGCU Baseball
TAMPA, Fla. - Third-seed Catawba College (47-13) got revenge on second-seed Florida Gulf Coast University (41-17), who defeated the Indians last night, with a 5-3 victory to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II South Regional championship game.
In the top of the first, Catawba center fielder David Thomas made a spectacular diving catch with two outs and the bases loaded to rob the Eagles' Geoff Rottmayer (Clearwater, Fla.) of an extra base-hit and three RBI.
Catawba then scored a run in each of the first three innings, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead. Thomas doubled to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on a single by catcher Matt Smith on the next play. First baseman Aaron Rimer led off the second inning with a home run while left fielder Jerry Sands provided a lead-off home run in the third.
FGCU got on the board with a pair of runs in the fourth inning when they loaded the bases with just one out. Freshman center fielder Josh Upchurch (Cape Coral, Fla.) singled home one run while the other came via a sacrifice fly by sophomore first baseman Mike Cleghorn (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Catawba got the runs back in the bottom of the fourth, scoring on a two-run home run by slugger Jimbo Davis. The Indians offense, which scored five runs in the first four innings, knocked out FGCU starter Jason Kiley (Palm Harbor, Fla.) after 2 2/3 innings. Kiley allowed three earned runs while scattering seven hits, walking two and striking out two.
The Eagles cut the lead to 5-3 with an eighth inning rally when Upchurch doubled home sophomore Graig Smith (Venice, Fla.) Catawba’s Jerry Sands saved a run for his team when he threw out Upchurch at the plate to end the inning after a Cleghorn single to left field.
The Eagles, who out-hit the Indians 13-12, stranded 12 runners in the game, leaving the bases loaded without scoring in two different innings. Upchurch led the Eagles with three hits, while Cleghorn, sophomore Shawn Griffin (Hollywood, Fla.), and Smith had two hits each. Thomas, who added a second nice catch in the outfield, finished with three hits for the Indians.
Junior right-hander Matt Laliberte (New Port Richey, Fla.) tossed 5.1 strong innings of relief to keep the Eagles within striking distance. Left-hander Alex Fairweather started for Catawba, hurling 4 1/3 innings while giving up nine hits and two earned runs. Fairweather struck out two and walked three. Matt Seabolt, who gave up one run in 3 1/3 innings of relief, earned the victory for the Indians. Zach Evans got the last out and recorded the save for Catawba.
Catawba will now face top-ranked and South Region top-seed Tampa for the South Region championship on Sunday at 1 pm. Tampa needs just one victory to secure the South Regional while Catawba would need to win two games for the crown.
Saturday's game marked the final appearance in an FGCU uniform for six seniors: Jason Louwsma, Ian Manson, Ryan Williams, Chris Perry, Troy Beall and Mike Mathews.