Ethan Westphal’s role as Central Missouri’s No. 2 starter is to keep the Central Region champion’s momentum rolling following a win or get the Mules back on track after a loss.
He played it as well as he has all year despite a weather-related extra day to think about the pressure the Mules faced following their opening-game loss in the NCAA Division II Championships. Westphal tossed seven shutout innings to lead a 6-0 win over Franklin Pierce on Tuesday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The junior right-hander with a 2.80 ERA improved to 11-2, the staff’s best record. Tyler Ross came on in relief the last two innings to send home the East Region champion Ravens (48-9) of New Hampshire in the double-elimination tournament.
In Wednesday games moved up earlier because of rain forecasts, Central Missouri (43-14) plays another elimination game at 11 a.m. against West champ Cal Poly Pomona (41-18). The 3 p.m. elimination game matches Midwest winner Southern Indiana (38-20) and Southeast champ Lander (43-15), which lost Tuesday’s nightcap 12-1 to South Region winner Nova Southeastern (41-16).
Nova Southeastern earned an added day off with a 2-0 start as did Millersville (52-5) with its second win on Monday. Both teams don’t play again until Thursday against the winners of Wednesday’s elimination games.
Central Missouri was originally set to open play Sunday, but the game was moved to Saturday night because of Tropical Storm Bonnie. The Mules replayed in their minds for the next three days the 3-4 loss that went on until nearly 1 a.m.
“We talked a little about it beginning of the game as a group,” Central Missouri Coach Kyle Crookes said. “E has been in this position multiple times pitching on Day 2. We have trust in him to give us a great opportunity to win.”
Third baseman Cole Distler, who was 1-of-2 with three RBIs, had an RBI single in the three-run eighth inning after RBI sacrifice fly balls in the second and fourth.
Nova Southeastern romps
Lander scored first on Zach Daly’s 350-foot-plus home run off the right-field scoreboard, but the Sharks from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., erupted with 15 hits and benefited from four errors.
Designated-hitter Brandon Gomez was 4-of-5 with two RBI and two runs scored and right-fielder Kavan Thompson 3-of-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
After the game Saturday when we left (15) guys on base and still won, we said the next team has something coming at them,” Gomez said. “That’s not like us to leave that many guys on.”
Thompson appeared to rob Daly of his second home run and third in two tournament games. He leaped with his back at the fence and snared the ball at the fence’s top yellow line.
Daly, a senior right-fielder from Gastonia, transferred to the Greenwood, S.C., school following his freshman year at North Carolina in 2013. Daly has 23 home runs this year to set a school record.
“I thought I got it good,” Daly said. “It happened in the regionals, so it’s kind of frustrating. Nothing you can do but tip your cap.”
Lander senior catcher John Mangum is an N.C. State transfer that homered in Saturday’s game. He was 1-of-3 against Nova.