Memorable CAA Tournament Runs Ends for Delaware as Blue Hen Baseball Falls to Top Seed UNCW 10-8 in Championship Game
May 26, 2012
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Cushner
HARRISONBURG, Va. – UNCW left fielder Thomas Pope singled home Hunter Ridge with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning as the Seahawks edged the University of Delaware, 10-8, Saturday afternoon in the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Tournament Championship Game at James Madison University's Veterans Memorial Park.
UNCW (38-21), the top seed in the tournament, had dropped the first game of the day to the Blue Hens, 11-9, which forced the final contest. UNCW earned the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Delaware, which was looking to win its first CAA Tournament title, ends its year at 31-27. The Hens finished as the CAA Tournament runner-up for the second time since 2007.
“What a day, and I couldn’t be more prouder of our players,” Delaware head coach Jim Sherman said following the title game. “We gave it our best and just came up a little bit short. It burns being this close, but I know that we will be back facing them again soon.”
The teams were tied 8-8 through five innings, and the game remained that way until the ninth. Ridge led off with a double to right field off UD right-hander Eric Young, and Pope followed with a single to center for the winning run.
Drew Farber then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first by Young was wild and put Seahawk runners on the corners. Jake Koenig followed by lofting a sacrifice fly to center, chasing home Pope with an insurance run.
UNCW relief pitcher Kelly Secrest (5-2) then set down Delaware in order during the bottom of the ninth to close out the victory. Justin Livengood and Secrest each fired 2.1 innings of hitless relief for the Seahawks, with Secrest picking up the victory.
Delaware, which did collect 13 hits in the loss, was led by a four-hit effort from second baseman DJ Long. Long’s four-hit day gave the junior 200-plus hits for his UD career.
Jimmy Yezzo and Ty Warrington each had multi-hit games while Long and Nick Ferdinand both hammered their fourth home runs of the season in the opening frame of the game.
Yezzo was named CAA Tournament Most Valuable Player after the sophomore first baseman broke a CAA record with 15 hits in the tournament. He went 2-for-5 with one double and two runs scored in the defeat.
“Talk about being in the zone and getting clutch hits at needed times,” said Sherman of Yezzo's play. “Thank you to the voters. It’s nice that they recognized the effort he made and record that was broken.”
Young (6-5) suffered the defeat for the Blue Hens in his final appearance for the Blue Hens. The senior right-hander yielded two earned runs on four hits, one walk and one strikeout in one inning of relief.
Blue Hen starter Corey Crispell garnered a no-decision as the senior right-hander tossed three innings with four earned runs on seven hits and one strikeout.
The Blue Hens jumped in front 5-0 during the bottom of the first inning after Delaware sent 11 men to the plate. Long and Ferdinand led off the frame with back-to-back home runs. Later in the inning Joe Giacchino ripped a two-run single to left, while Warrington added an RBI single to right to give Delaware the early lead.
A Tyler Powell double that scored Yezzo increased the advantage to 6-0 through two innings, but the Seahawks answered with three in the third to cut the deficit in half.
The Seahawks then took their first lead of the game by pushing across five runs in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run homer to left by Andrew Cain. However the Blue Hens answered back in the fifth as EJ Stoltzfus scored on a balk and Long singled home Warrington to knot the game at 8-8. The teams then remained tied until the Seahawks scored the decisive two runs in the ninth.
Delaware had forced the final game after posting the 11-9 win earlier in the day, as Yezzo belted a grand slam during a five-run sixth inning for the Blue Hens.
Delaware fell behind 3-1 through three frames, but Giacchino scored on a wild pitch in the top of the fourth before the Blue Hens took the lead for good with three in the fifth. Ferdinand and Alex Maruri each delivered RBI singles in the frame, while a sacrifice fly by Giacchino made it a 5-3 game.
The Seahawks answered with a run in the bottom half, but Ferdinand worked a bases loaded walk in the sixth before Yezzo blasted his grand slam to increase UD’s advantage to 10-4. UNCW countered with a pair in the bottom of the sixth and one in the seventh, before Yezzo tripled in the eighth and then crossed the plate on a single by Maruri to make it an 11-7 contest.
UNCW opened the bottom of the ninth with three walks and Michael Bass followed with a single to cut the deficit to three. The Seahawks added another run on a groundout and had the potential tying runner on second base with two out, but UD righthander Chad Kuhl struck out Cain swinging to end the game.
Yezzo led the 16-hit Blue Hen attack by finishing 4-for-5 with a grand slam, four RBI and three runs scored, while Maruri was 3-for-5 with a pair of runs batted in. Jeff Murray picked up his first victory of the season despite allowing three earned runs in 1.2 innings, while Kuhl earned his first save of the campaign.