Cougars Fall Short Of World Series
DALLAS — Washington & Jefferson catcher Justin Griffin was in the wrong place at the right time. Because he was, he helped avoid a potential disaster for the Presidents, and helped them beat Misericordia and clinch a berth in next week’s Division III College World Series.
Griffin went out of position to catch a pop-up between the pitcher’s mound and first base to stop a Misericordia rally. The Presidents held on and swept the best-of-three super regional with a 5-4 victory at Tambur Field.
The Presidents advance to the World Series for the second time in three years. Misericordia ends its season 35-13.
“These guys continue to amaze,” said Washington and Jefferson manager Jeff Fountain. “We have played 45 innings in regional play and we have been leading by less than three, trailing or tied in 43 of those 45 innings. When that is the case, your margin for error is slim.”
The margin for error was even smaller in the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and a 5-3 W&J lead, Misericordia’s Santo Giunta hit a popup near the mound. Three players from the infield converged on the ball that eventually dropped. Giunta hustled out of the box and ended up at second base.
He eventually scored when Kenny Jarema singled up the middle.
Parker Abate next produced another pop up near the mound. Griffin went for the ball, despite there being two runners on base, leaving home plate vacant. Griffin called for the ball, but that didn’t stop a group of W&J infielders all trying to make the catch. Griffin, as he crashed to the ground and was run into by the third baseman, was able to hold on to the ball for the third out.
“When I saw the first one go up, I was thinking the second one was my ball,” Griffin said. “We have two young guys on the (corners) and there was no way the second one was dropping. I got underneath it.”
The catch prevented the tying and go-ahead runs from scoring.
“That was a heck of a play by the catcher,” Misericordia manager Pete Egbert said. “He had no business being out there, especially with runners on base. He obviously didn’t want to watch the second one drop. He took charge and caught it.”
While the two runners on base would have easily scored, Abate, had the ball dropped would have been on second.
“We’re always taught to bust it out of the box,” Abate said. “I definitely took a look over my shoulder because I knew there was some chance it might drop.”
After scoring five times in the bottom of the eighth to pull away and win Friday’s series opener, the Presidents kept the pressure on with three runs in the top of the first Saturday.
“Misericordia is a team that you want them to play from behind,” Fountain said. “If they play from ahead, they are like an NFL rushing offense that they jam it down your throat. You have to take them out of their game because it makes it easier on the defense. They punched back as I expected they would.”
But the Cougars could never catch the Presidents.
Misericordia scored once in the first when Abate scored on Tyler Holzapfel’s base hit to right. The Cougars added another run in the second when Conor Smith scored on Jarema’s base hit. A wild pitch gave the Presidents a 4-2 lead in the fourth, but Misericordia came right back to make it a one-run game when Shane Hughes scored on a ground out.
“They touched our starters early in both games. That hurt us,” Egbert said. “At this level of baseball, everything matters. You hit a ground ball down the third base line and theirs goes for a double and ours gets caught.”
Washington & Jefferson scored its final run in the seventh on a wild pitch with two outs in the inning.
“Their club is very good,” Egbert said. “I think they did just a little bit more than we did.”
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