Zack Radde singled up the middle to score Sean Cummins with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning as the nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh baseball team pulled out a thrilling 4-3 decision over Bethel University (Minn.) to open the NCAA Division III Championship on Thursday (May 17) in Duluth, Minn.
Cummins led off the decisive 12th inning with a walk on a full-count pitch from Bethel University relief pitcher Jake Marsh. Cummins went to second base on a passed ball and advanced to third following a sacrifice bunt by Jack Paulson. Then, on the first pitch of the at-bat, Radde delivered a hit past a diving Royals shortstop as UW-Oshkosh earned its first NCAA postseason victory since 2007.
UW-Oshkosh (32-8), ranked seventh in the country by D3baseball.com, advances to play North Central College (Ill.), which won its opening-round contest, 8-7, over University of Dubuque (Iowa) (24-16) in walk-off fashion. The Titans and North Central College (29-12) are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Friday (May 18) at Wade Stadium in Duluth.
The Titans earned the victory despite leaving 17 runners on base, including the bases loaded in each of the fourth, fifth and eighth innings. UW-Oshkosh stranded its most baserunners in more than 20 years. The Royals, who went into the contest leading all three NCAA divisions with a 1.80 earned run average, were 31-0 this season when scoring at least three runs.
Bethel University (32-10) took a 1-0 edge in the top of the first inning as Sam Horner led off the game with a triple and scored on a one-out off the bat of Austin Ledin.
UW-Oshkosh stormed back with three runs on three hits in the home half of the first inning off of Royals starting pitcher Michael Bohlke, who entered Thursday with a 2.11 earned run average. Bethel University had allowed three or more runs in an inning on just six occasions this season before Thursday's first-inning outburst by the Titans.
Paulson, who finished the game 4-for-6 at the plate and recorded seven assists in the field, sparked the Titans' big inning with a leadoff single and came around to score the tying run on a single by Taylor Grimm with no outs. Alex Koch lifted a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 UW-Oshkosh advantage before Logan Reckert hit a run-scoring single with two outs.
Titans starting pitcher Nick McLees and Bohlke kept it a 3-1 game until Bethel University cut its deficit to 3-2 in the eighth inning on a one-out RBI double from Ledin that plated Horner. The Royals knotted the score at 3 in the ninth frame as Michael Wesner doubled with two outs ahead of pinch-hitter Brandon Meyer, who produced a run-scoring single to conclude McLees' outing.
Reckert laced a triple to right-center field to open the home half of the ninth inning, but Marsh entered the game and retired the next three Titans, including two via strikeouts.
Titans relief pitcher Lucas Gregory set down the Royals in order during the 10th inning before UW-Oshkosh could not capitalize on Paulson's leadoff single in bottom of the frame.
The teams both stranded runners at first base in the 11th inning, and the Royals left a pair of runners in the top of the 12th as Gregory notched a pair of strikeouts to thwart the threat.
Gregory (5-3) picked up the win, pitching 3.1 hitless innings in relief of McLees. Gregory walked three and struck out five.
McLees did not factor in the decision after surrendering three runs on eight hits in 8.1 innings. He issued two walks and collected six strikeouts.
UW-Oshkosh outhit the Royals, 14-8. Paulson's four-hit performance matched his season high. Grimm, Radde and Reckert each added two hits for the Titans while Horner and Wesner had a pair of hits for Bethel University.
Marsh (3-2), who had allowed just two runs over his previous 28.2 innings pitched this year, suffered the loss Thursday after allowing one run on two hits in 3.1 innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Bohlke pitched the first seven innings for the Royals, yielding three runs on 11 hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
UW-Oshkosh upped its record to 2-0 in extra-inning games this year while Bethel University fell to 2-3 in such contests.
Thursday's other first game at the Duluth Regional also featured a walk-off win as eighth-ranked Concordia University Chicago (Ill.) (34-12) slipped past Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.) (23-11) by a 13-12 score.
UW-Oshkosh, the 1985 and 1994 national champion, improved its record to 105-51 at the Division III Championship. The Titans' 105 wins rank fourth in division history.
The Titans and Royals were meeting for the third time and first since UW-Oshkosh swept a doubleheader from Bethel University in 2008.
UW-Oshkosh Postgame Press Conference [head coach Kevin Tomasiewicz & junior outfielder Zack Radde]: