MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. -- Catawba defeated Francis Marion 8-4 in the NCAA Division II Basebal Southeast Region Championship on Sunday, earning just the second trip to the NCAA Division II World Series by a SAC school in league history. Catawba also beat conference-rival Tusculum earlier on Sunday to reach the title game.
Catawba's Keaton Hawks' (Lexington, NC/E. Davidson HS) bases-loaded single in the seventh inning broke a 4-4, Chris Dula (Troutman, NC/S. Iredell HS) added a two-run triple in the ninth and tournament Most Outstanding Player Julio Zubillaga (China Grove, NC/Carson HS) had three hits, an RBI and two runs scored in the win.
Catawba (43-15) will face the University of Indianapolis May 27 at 1 p.m. in the first round of the national finals at the USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, N.C. The Indians twice advanced to the South Regional finals, both times losing to Tampa. Complete information on the event can be found here.
For Francis Marion (40-18), it marked the third consecutive regional final loss in the Southeast Regional.
The Indians jumped on its opponent early for the second consecutive game. In the top of the first, Dula led off with a double, then moved to third on a single by Ryan Bostian (Kannapolis, NC/S. Rowan HS/Montreat). After a walk to Ethan Satterfield (Madison, NC/McMichael HS), Zubillaga singled to drive in Dula with the first run. It marked the fifth consecutive game Zubillaga drove in at least one run. Later, Satterfield scored on a wild pitch.
In Sunday's first elimination game, a 6-1 Catawba victory over No. 2 Tusculum (48-10), the Indians struck for four runs in the first.
The Indians stretched the lead to 4-0 in the third when Zubillaga singled with one out, followed by a Brett Underwood (Greensboro, NC/SW Guilford HS) walk and a Greg Lawson (Charlotte, NC/Providence HS) RBI-single. A throwing error allowed the fourth run to score.
The outburst sent the Patriots to their bullpen. Matt Broderick, making his third appearance of the weekend, came in and gave the Patriots a shot in the arm, keeping Catawba off the scoreboard for 2 2/3 innings.
The effort soon paid off as the Patriots fought their way back into the game. In the fourth, Buddy Sosnoskie led off the inning with a double and Jacob Golliday walked. Tyler Boyd singled home the first run, then pinch-hitter Luke Tollison singled to cut the deficit to 4-2.
With runners still on first and second with two outs, Zubillaga showed he could inflict damage with more than just his bat. Patriot shortstop Michael Wilson launched a deep fly ball to right that glanced off the top of the wall. Rightfielder Bostian hit Zubillaga with a strong relay throw, and the Catawba second baseman threw to Lawson to nail Tollison for the final out to keep the Indians in front 4-3.
The play took some of the momentum away from the Patriots. In the fifth, Francis Marion again threatened to have a big inning. Sosniskie's RBI-single scored Brock McCallister with the tying run. The hit knocked out Catawba starter Nick Lomascolo (Mooresville, NC/Lake Norman HS), ending a stretch of three consecutive complete game efforts by Indian starters. Reliever Craig Brooks (Monroe, NC/Parkwood HS) (2-0) came in and immediately hit Stephen Tarkenton with a pitch and allowed a single to Jacob Golliday to load the bases. Brooks escaped with a tie game by coaxing a ground ball double play from Boyd.
Brooks allowed just two more baserunners the rest of the contest.
Catawba re-grouped and took the lead for good in the top of the seventh. Zubillaga legged out an infield single, then Underwood reached on an error and Lawson singled to load the bases against Patriot closer Jeffrey Stoner (6-4). Stoner, pitching in his third consecutive game, was not able to deny the Indians. Hawks singled in a run and Dula added a sacrifice fly to put the Indians ahead for good.
Francis Marion only threatened once more. In the eighth, singles by Tarkenton and Boyd put a pair of runners on with one out. Neither runner advanced.
In the ninth, Brooks coaxed three groundouts to Underwood in the rain to end the game.
The following players were named to the All-Region Team: Catawba catcher Greg Lawson, second baseman Julio Zubillaga, third baseman Cameron Beard (Conover, NC/Bunker Hill HS), outfielders Ryan Bostian and Ethan Satterfield along with pitchers John Tuttle (Kannapolis, NC/A.L. Brown HS) and Ross Whitley (Mooresville, NC/Lake Norman HS); Francis Marion shortstop Michael Wilson and outfielder Buddy Sosnoskie; Tusculum first baseman Cody Coffman.
Catawba Head Coach Jim Gantt
On his team's first trip to the NCAA Division II National Finals...
"It's hard to believe it finally happened. We pitch and we play good defense. That's what we do. This weekend, that's what won games for us. Today we got the bats going and the ball fell our way. That's kind of the way it worked for us all weekend. The other night against Mount Olive we had three hits total. I don't think they went 180 feet combined. But we pitched and played solid defense. We get Mount Olive right after lightning struck against them. Tonight we make a great play on a relay throw. We get a double play when we need one. Yeah, they tied it up on us, but making those plays kept them from taking the momentum."
Catawba Second Baseman Julio Zubillaga
"It feels amazing pulling this off. It's my first dogpile here. The pitchers did such a great job for us. I think our guys showed a lot of heart coming back after losing the first game the way we did. I think the win we got over Mount Olive really got us going in the right direction and we never looked back."
- Courtesy Catawba Media Relations