Monday, May 29, 2006

Staying Alive

What started with eight is now down to four. Wheaton College, on the strength of their heart-stopping, 5-4 win over Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is left standing with three others, in the 2006 College World Series, held in Appleton, Wisconsin.

With mid-summer temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, sophomore right-hander, Louis Bernadini, pitched into the ninth, leaving with a 5-1 lead. With the lead and one of the nation’s top closers in Division III, Jamie Baker, brought in to drive the final two nails in the Pointers’ coffin, it looked like the Lyons’ faithful could collectively take a cleansing breath and stop gripping. As happens so often in tournament play, Wisconsin-Stevens Point refused to go quietly. Senior Chuck Brehm blasted a two-run homer over the wall in left center to make it a two-run margin. A walk and an RBI single made it 5-4 and the partisan crowd was whooping it up for their home state team. With hearts in throats, the Lyons’ contingent of parents, friends and assorted family members screamed and hollered support, as Baker flung a 2-2 slider by the lunging WSP hitter and the Lyons lived to play for another day.

Wheaton has a chance to test its mettle again, this time against Montclair State College, of New Jersey. The Red Hawks advanced in an improbable fashion, with their dramatic 5-4 win over Eastern Connecticut State.

With runners at seoncs and third, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Eastern Connecticut State head coach Bill Holowaty brought in senior pitcher Alex Narus - the seventh Warrior pitcher used in the game - to face Brian Butler. On his first pitch of an intentional-walk attempt, the high lob ricocheted off of the top of catcher Matt Cooney's glove and slowly went back to the wall. Michael Nunes sprinted to the plate with the game-winning run. I can only imagine the anguish experienced by the fans from Connecticut.

Today, Wheaton will play at noon. If they can get by the Red Hawks, they will have the opportunity for a rematch against Chapman University, which fell to the undefeated Marietta College Pioneers, 10-4, in Sunday night action.

Both Mary and I are enjoying ourselves, along with the other members of the Wheaton entourage. The Appleton area has rolled out the red carpet to the teams and their fans and the weather, save for a few showers on Saturday, has been gorgeous.

I hope to be back to report on two victories with my next post.

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