Fester's RBI sends Hopkins to Division III final

The Baltimore Sun

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- For nearly six weeks this season, Johns Hopkins shortstop Jonas Fester sat on the bench while recovering from a torn medial collateral knee ligament. And after collecting just two hits in his first 13 at-bats in the NCAA Division III baseball championship series, the former All-American finally found his swing.

The senior had five hits in six trips -- including a walk-off single in the ninth inning -- as the Blue Jays beat Wisconsin-Whitewater, 12-11, in an elimination game yesterday at Fox Cities Stadium.

"I was just trying to knock off some rust," Fester said. "I just tried to keep it simple and trust myself; I tried to just see the ball and hit it."

His game-winner finished a ninth inning that capped a roller-coaster game that included four ties and five lead changes and was tied at 11 heading into the final inning.

Left fielder Jon Solomon led off the ninth with a double to center off Mike Jacobson. Whitewater then intentionally walked designated hitter Chris Huisman to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Warhawks coach John Vodenlich summoned right-hander Adam Dominick from the bullpen to face pinch hitter Dan Merzel.

After picking up two quick strikes on failed bunt attempts, Merzel hit a roller along the third-base line. Whitewater catcher Billy Johnson watched the ball roll, but it stopped just before crossing the line, loading the bases with nobody out.

"I thought for sure it was foul," Hopkins coach Bob Babb said. "I tell them with two strikes that they don't have to be so fine, but he was pretty fine."

Nate Adelman followed by grounding into a forceout that retired Solomon at home, keeping the bases loaded for Fester. After falling behind 0-2, he was just looking to make contact.

"I was just trying to stay aggressive. I knew if I hit the ball hard on the ground somewhere it would get through," Fester said.

It was hardly a banner day for the Blue Jays' pitching staff. Neither starter Ryan Kuhlman (four earned runs on six hits in four innings) nor Joe Zaccaria was having his best effort, but they benefited from having a strong offense to back them up.

The comeback wouldn't have been possible, however, without a solid performance from Matt Wiegand.

"I knew they were a great-hitting team," Wiegand said. "I wanted to go after them, make them put the ball in play and let our defense take care of him."

He did survive one scare, when Whitewater right fielder Joe Munn belted a shot deep to center that Rob Pietroforte just got under.

"My heart stopped," Babb said.

Wiegand's only other blemish was a hit batter who advanced to second on a wild pitch. He ended the ninth with two strikeouts and was credited with his third victory of the season.

Hopkins batters notched 20 hits including four from Solomon, three from third baseman Todd Emr and two each from Adelman and Pietroforte.

"I thought we swung the bats really well," Babb said. "We didn't pitch great, and we didn't play defense. Hopefully [today] is the day we put it all together."

The Blue Jays will face undefeated Trinity College of Connecticut in the final, set for noon today at Fox Cities Stadium. They need to defeat the Bantams twice to win the championship. Trinity handed Hopkins an 8-5 loss in a third-round game Sunday night.

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