Worth the wait: SNHU stays alive in World Series with rain-delayed winBy Brett Friedlander
Special to the Union Leader
May 31. 2018 2:30AM
CARY, N.C. -- Maybe the Southern New Hampshire baseball team took its foot off the gas once it built a big early lead. Maybe it was trying to save some runs for another elimination game this afternoon.
Or perhaps the Penmen simply got tired as Wednesday night turned to Thursday morning at the Division II College World Series.
Powered by homers from leadoff man Tom Blandini and Kyle Pangallo, coach Scott Loiseau's East Region champions roared out to a seven-run lead after three innings, then hung on for dear life to beat UC San Diego 7-4 in a wild rain-delayed game at the USA Baseball Training Center.
"It was a very intense game of baseball," Pangallo, the SNHU's hottest hitter in the tournament thus far, said of the victory that sends the Penmen into the semifinal round of the double-elimination tournament, where they will play unbeaten Augustana at 1 p.m.
Picking up where it left off a day earlier in its win against Southern Indiana, SNHU got off to a roaring start when Blandini began the bottom of the first by hitting a home run to left.
It was only his second homer of the season and it ignited a spark that quickly spread to others.
"It makes us feel good about ourselves," Blandini said of his homer, which surprised even himself as it disappeared over the wall. "It really set the tone for the whole game."
In the second, Pangallo followed singles by Sam Henrie and Idelson Taveras with a three-run shot of his own to increase the lead to 4-0 before the Penmen added three more in the third on a wild pitch and RBI singles by Ryan Sullivan and Tavares.
At that point, it looked like SNHU (41-16) would be in for an easy night. But things began to go awry as the clock ticked closer to the bewitching hour of midnight.
Starting pitcher Mitchell Powers breezed through the first four innings, allowing only a pair of hits while striking out six. He got through the fifth unscathed as well, but the first signs of trouble began to show when the final two outs of the inning came on long fly balls to the warning track.
UCSD's Michael Palos then led off the sixth with a ball no one could catch, hitting it over the wall in left for the Tritons' first run of the game.
They might have had even more if not for a beautiful relay throw from left fielder Henrie to shortstop Pangallo to catcher Mulcay on a double down the line by leadoff man Keenan Brigman.
The runner was clearly out on the plate. But instead of giving the Penmen a lift, the pivotal play turned the momentum in UCSD's favor after coach Eric Newman was ejected from the game for arguing after the umpires declined to review the call.
Playing with much more emotion, the Tritons (43-17) began chipping away, scoring again in the sixth and threatening to get more before Wesley Tobin came in and -- just as he did against Merrimack on April 27 -- immediately induced what proved to be a game-saving double play.
"Wes has done an unbelievable job of coming into situations like that all year and getting double plays," Loiseau said. "... If we don't play that double play there, who knows what happens."
Even with the double play, SNHU's troubles weren't over. UCSD made things even more interesting by scoring twice in the seventh off Tobin. In both the sixth and seventh, walks played prominent roles in the Tritons' rallies.
"We didn't pitch great with the lead in those situations," Loiseau said. "A lot of those walks are probably why people felt the game was slipping away."
Cameron Kurz, UCSD's third pitcher of the night, also had something to do with that perception.
The senior right-hander came out of the bullpen with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth and proceeded to strike out the next two batters to get out of the jam. He retired 11 hitters in a row with six strikeouts until Sullivan reached on an error leading off the eighth to break the drought.
Sullivan was promptly cut down at second trying to advance on a ball that got away from the UCSD catcher. It turned out not to matter, though.
Tobin settled down from his rocky start to retire the side in order in both the eighth and ninth, finishing with a flourish by striking out the side to save the victory and prolonging the Penmen's stay in Cary.