One week into the NCAA Division II Championship the leading pitching team met the top hitting lineup for the opener of their best-of-three baseball finals.
Millersville starter Brandon Miller represented the Marauders’ tournament-leading pitching staff, tossing a complete game, five-hitter. Nova Southeastern’s Brandon Gomez characterized the heavy-hitting Sharks with a fourth-inning home run.
But in the game of baseball, expect the unexpected. Nova Southeastern won 2-1 with the benefit a throwing error Friday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The teams meet again at 3 p.m. with Nova Southeastern (43-16), the South Region champion ranked No. 17 in the nation from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in position to claim the program’s first national title in its first Division II College World Series appearance.
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If Millersville (53-6), the Atlantic champion ranked No. 1 in the nation from outside of Lancaster, Pa., bounces back with a victory, a decisive third game will be played at 7 p.m. The double-elimination event turned into a best-of-three series when both schools advanced to Friday’s game with 3-0 records.
“I know this sounds like a broken record, but it has been great baseball all week,” Sharks Coach Greg Brown said. “It started on the mound for both teams. Miller had us off-balance. He was throwing strike after strike like he did last Saturday. And I thought (Nova starter Alex) Mateo did the same.
“We got the big swing from Gomez, which changed the momentum of the game. It wasn’t our typical game. Typically we have more hits, but we found a way to do it.”
Millersville’s 0.75 ERA through four leads the tournament, with the exception Angelo State’s 0.53 in only two games before elimination. Nova’s leads with 23 runs scored in four games as well as average, although it is only a .279 mark in the low-scoring tournament.
Millersville scored first in the bottom of the third after center-fielder Dan Neff singled and right-fielder Chaz McCormick tripled.
Gomez, the team’s second-leading hitter among regular starters at .339, tied the score in the top of the fourth with his 21st home run in 59 games.
The decisive unearned winning road scored in the sixth. Center-fielder Kevin Suarez led off with a walk and first baseman Andres Visbal put down a sacrifice bunt attempt. But Miller was forced to hurry his throw when he came off the mound. The ball glanced off the first baseman’s glove and rolled deep down the right field line. The aggressive Suarez was waved home.
“It’s baseball,” Millersville Coach Jon Shehan said. “We played 59 games; our 60th is tomorrow. We can look back at 53 wins, and we’ve been so blessed with so many opportunities to win. All year long everything has gone right. A couple of things didn’t go right today. We didn’t execute.”
Both teams are nonplussed by the thought of a double-header to decide the title. Division II schools routinely play double-headers in conference play as a cost-saving measure.