Spokane, Washington - The top-seeded Trinity baseball team opened the NCAA Division III Regional with a 7-3 victory over #6 seed Pacific Lutheran (WA) University on Wednesday afternoon.
Trinity (36-7) will now take on the loser of third-seeded Case Western Reserve (OH) University, and the host and #4 seed Whitworth University at 3:15 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday. Pacific Lutheran (26-18) plays the loser of second-seeded California Lutheran University and #5 seed University of Texas-Tyler in an elimination game.
The Lutes opened Wednesday's matchup by putting two runs on the board in the top of the first inning, but the third-ranked Tigers responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the stanza. Jeremy Wolf cracked a double, and accounted for his 57th RBI of the season. Drew Butler then plastered a two-run home run, his seventh round-tripper of the campaign.
"Offensively, for us to answer with a three-spot in the first, after they put up a two-spot, that was huge," admitted Head Coach Tim Scannell. "Because they never exactly had a chance to gain the momentum. I thought Wolf's hit in the first inning was huge, and obviously, Butler's leaving the yard, which put us up 3-2, was huge as well."
After Trinity scored again in the second, Pacific Lutheran did the same in the fifth to make it a 4-3 game. Butler and Nick Jewett drove in runs in the sixth to extend the Tiger lead, and then Jewett added another insurance run with his fourth hit of the day in the eighth. Butler drove in three runs in the game, and Jewett batted 4-5. Colin Serkowski and Andrew Waters each collected two hits for Trinity.
Ryan Gray (8-3) hurled eight innings and earned the victory. After the fifth inning, Gray retired nine of the next 10 batters to set up the win. Gray fanned eight Pacific Lutheran hitters in the process. Troy Nelson finished the game by retiring three straight batters in the ninth.
"Ryan Gray was outstanding," concluded Coach Scannell. "I think the biggest thing is, he has put aside any type of accolades, to pitch for his teammates. They are an all senior class, they are great friends, and Ryan goes out there and pitches tough as nails, and came up with a huge outing. Troy Nelson went 1-2-3 in the ninth, and it was a really good pitching performance for him, as well. He threw the ball 89 to 94 miles per hour in the last inning."
For more from Coach Scannell, as well as thoughts from Gray and Butler, check out today's post-game press conference, courtesy of Whitworth.
The six-team double-elimination Regional continues through Saturday, with the winner advancing to the DIII World Series May 27-June 2 at Appleton, Wisconsin. Last season, the Tigers advanced to the Championship for the first time, and came within one game of earning a berth in the best-of-three finals series.