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College Baseball: Sloppy first inning allows Augustana to get upper hand vs. SNHU; Penmen face must-win Sunday

Special to the Union Leader

May 26. 2018 10:35PM
SNHU's Thomas Buonopane starts his swing in the Penmen's 5-2 loss to Augustana on Saturday in the first day of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships. (Brett Freidlander photo)

CARY, N.C. - It took only one batter into Southern New Hampshire's Division II College World Series opener against Augustana to get the feeling that it wasn't going to be the Penmen's day.

The trouble started on a routine infield grounder.

Shortstop Kyle Pangallo fielded the ball cleanly, but threw wide of first for an error. Catcher Dakota Mulcay hustled to back up the play, but then compounded the situation by committing a throwing error of his own, allowing the runner to advance to third.

The Vikings scored twice in that first inning and the Penmen never recovered in dropping a 5-2 decision Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Center.

SNHU (39-16) will now play either top-seeded Florida Southern or No. 8 Southern Indiana in the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament on Sunday at 4 p.m. The game was initially scheduled for Monday, but weather forced the time change.

"Letting them get two right away and making three errors in the first inning obviously isn't the way you want to start the tournament," Penmen coach Scott Loiseau said afterward. "We just didn't perform well enough today."

SNHU starter Jake Walkinshaw delivers in the first game of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships on Saturday in Cary, N.C. (Brett Freidlander photo)

Walkinshaw, making only his fourth start of the season, didn't pitch badly despite lasting less than two innings.

He was simply a victim of a defense that made three errors in the first inning and misplayed a squeeze bunt in the the second that allowed Augustana's third run to cross the plate.

It was that defense, however, that provided a potential turning point after Walkinshaw was relieved by Wesley Tobin. Third baseman Tom Blandini made a diving stop and strong throw to first to get SNHU out of further trouble.

The Penmen quickly built on the momentum, cutting the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the second on a walk to Sam Henrie and a long home run to left center by eighth hitter Pangallo.

The homer was Pangallo's first since May 15, 2017 and finally seemed to settle SNHU down. Tobin did his part to keep things under control by retiring nine straight Augustana hitters through the top of the fifth.

That's when Mother Nature intervened in the form of a thunderstorm that delayed the game for just under two hours.

Tobin wasn't the same once play resumed. He allowed a pair of singles and hit a batter to load the bases with one out in the sixth before being replaced by Mitchell Powers, who was greeted with a two-run double by Vikings leadoff man Riley Johnson on the first pitch he threw.

"We were debating it back and forth," Loiseau said of the decision to keep Tobin on the mound or go to the bullpen after the delay. "Clearly it could go either way. Their guy came right back out and had no problem. Maybe it affected Wes. Maybe he just pitched poorly."

The rally gave Augustana (49-9) a three-run cushion, not that it was needed the way starter Tyler Mitzel was pitching.

Unlike Tobin, Mitzel showed no ill effects from the long layoff. He retired the first 10 Penmen he faced after the break and 16 in a row overall before Pangallo broke the streak with a one-out double in the eighth. The senior right-hander finished with 10 strikeouts while walking only one.

The Vikings outhit the Penmen 10-4 with Pangallo getting two of the four hits.

"He should have talked to the rest of the guys," Loiseau joked. "Clearly he saw the ball better or that kid maybe make some mistakes that he got."