COLLEGE BASEBALL: Misericordia Drops Opener Of Super Regional
DALLAS — The scenario couldn’t have played out any better for the Misericordia Cougars. Seven innings from starter Ian McCole, a fresh bullpen and a tie game.
On the other side of the field, Washington & Jefferson was in the same situation. A solid outing from starter Ben Marsico, two outs from the middle man before turning things over to relief ace Mitchell Taufer.
For the Cougars, though, closer Kyle Melahn struggled with his command and paid the price in the bottom of the eighth when the Presidents scored five times to win the first game of the best-of-three South Super Regional, 8-3, on Friday afternoon at Tambur Field.
Now, the Cougars are one loss away from seeing their season come to an end, or two wins from advancing to the College World Series for the second consecutive year.
The second game of the series will be played at Tambur Field this morning at 11. A third game, if necessary, will begin at approximately 2:30.
But either way, Misericordia will be playing with its backs against the wall.
“I don’t think, start to finish, we competed,” said Misericordia manager Pete Egbert. “A number of things didn’t go right. I don’t think we competed as we normally have throughout the course of the year. They did some nice things to get to Ian and he had to change his game plan. Offensively, we took some poor swings. A lot of things didn’t go our way.”
Washington & Jefferson was aggressive at the plate against McCole. After going down in order on five pitches in the bottom of the first, the Presidents scored once in the second and two more times in the third to take a 3-0 lead.
Misericordia’s Tyler Holzapfel led off the bottom of the second with a double, and moved to third on a ground out. That began a stretch where Marsico would retire nine consecutive hitters until the Cougars finally were able to get to him in the fifth.
Shane Hughes reached on an infield single and Billy Kerwein singled to left. Conor Smith dropped down a bunt on a 2-2 count that helped set up Misericordia’s first run when Sean Boylan grounded out. Parker Abate’s infield base hit scored the second run to give the Cougars some life.
The Cougars tied the game in the sixth when the first three batters reached and were able to chase Marsico from the game. Brady Madden singled to left before Holzapfel roped a double to right. Madden was thrown out at the plate on the play, but Shane Hughes hustled his way to a double on a ball to the gap in right-center to bring home Holzapfel with the tying run.
“We know Misericordia is pesky and we know you are not going to get your starter through five or six innings on 80 pitches and potentially be fresh to get deep in the game,” said W&J manager Jeff Mountain. “If you add up the 36 innings we have played, we were either trailing, ahead or tied by less than three runs in 34 of those 36 innings. Every decision is magnified.”
McCole got through seven innings before giving way to Melahn to start the eight. And that is when disaster struck for the Cougars. The first three batters were hit by a pitch to quickly load the bases. Spencer Howell reached on an error to score one run, before a wild pitch brought home another run.
Melahn got two quick outs on a fielder’s choice out at the plate and strikeout. After he fell behind leadoff hitter Dante Dalessandro in the count 2-0 with a base open, Egbert called for the intentional walk to load the bases. Mullen Socha drilled the second pitch of the next at-bat to center for a three-run double to cap the five-run inning.
“It kind of crossed my mind if they weren’t going to intentionally walk (Dalessandro), they would pitch around him,” Socha said. “I was excited to have the opportunity to go up there. I knew going up there the pressure was not on me. Anything I could do to add on would be a bonus.”
Misericordia dropped to 35-12 on the year and needs to win twice today to keep its season alive. The Presidents, now 36-11, need to avoid being swept today to advance to the World Series.
“There is not much to say,” Egbert said. “We have to get back to doing what we do. It has to be with how the prepare themselves (Friday night) and how they show up to the field. They have to make sure they compete pitch-by-pitch. Our backs have been to the wall before. We have to get back to our formula that we didn’t have today.”
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