Letting title walk away

The Baltimore Sun

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- In order to win its first NCAA Division III baseball championship, Johns Hopkins needed to do something no other team had done this season - beat Trinity College.

Making matters more difficult, the Blue Jays had to do so twice.

They accomplished half the task yesterday, picking up a 4-3 victory in the first game, ending the Bantams' 44-game winning streak and forcing a winner-take-all finale in the double-elimination tournament.

But Hopkins failed to hold off Trinity in the second game, falling, 5-4, on a pair of bases-loaded, two-out walks in the bottom of the ninth inning.

As a result, the Blue Jays (42-8) left Fox Cities Stadium with the runner-up trophy while the team from Hartford, Conn., went home with the championship that Hopkins needed just three outs to claim.

In the second game, the Blue Jays fell behind 2-0 in the second inning on an RBI triple by center fielder Matt Sullivan and a sacrifice fly by third baseman Tim Bourdon. Hopkins first baseman Matt Benchener cut the Bantams' lead in half with a third-inning home run, and the Blue Jays took the lead in the eighth when Rob Pietroforte hit a two-out, two-run triple that dropped just inside the foul line in the right corner.

Trinity tied the score at 3 in its half of the inning on Matt Stafford's pinch-hit single that drove in Chandler Barnard. Blue Jays coach Bob Babb brought in right-hander Matt Wiegand from the bullpen, and Wiegand closed out the inning with no further damage.

Hopkins looked to be in a position to win the crown in the ninth inning. Catcher Tony Margve hit a leadoff single off Trinity reliever Michael Regan and advanced to third on left fielder Jon Solomon's single to right. With one out, Benchener hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Margve and put Hopkins ahead, 4-3.

Wiegand, who pitched nearly flawlessly a night earlier to keep the Blue Jays alive, struggled in the ninth. He allowed back-to-back, one-out singles that put runners at first and third before striking out shortstop Thomas DiBenedetto for the second out.

Babb called for an intentional walk to Barnard, which loaded the bases. Wiegand fell behind 3-0 to Sullivan before walking him on a 3-2 pitch that Margve, along with his teammates, thought was a strike.

"He called it a ball," Margve said of plate umpire Todd Olinger. "There's nothing we can do about it. It should have never have come down to that. ... We can't change that now.

"It's not our place to question, especially at this level. You've got to hope the umpires make the right calls."

That brought up Guy Gogliettino, a ninth-inning defensive replacement who had yet to make an appearance in the tournament. Wiegand got ahead of Gogliettino 0-2 and then threw two balls before Gogliettino fouled off six straight pitches.

Gogliettino worked the count full before Wiegand threw high and inside to force in the winning run.

"He was a little behind the fastball, and we were having a little trouble getting off-speed pitches over the plate," Margve said of Gogliettino. "It was either he was going to beat us or we were going to beat him.

"Unfortunately, our pitcher lost the battle, but we knew what we had to do."

The second game was made possible by Hopkins' late-inning dramatics earlier in the day. Right-hander Chez Angeloni pitched his second complete game of the tournament, allowing three runs on nine hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. He was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Hopkins took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on Benchener's RBI single that scored Margve. Trinity answered with two runs in the fifth, and the Blue Jays tied the score again in the sixth on another run-scoring single by Benchener.

It remained tied at 3 into the ninth, when Hopkins put runners on first and third with one out after Chris Huisman doubled to lead off the inning. He was replaced by pinch runner Isaac Katz, who scored the winning run when Jonas Fester reached on a third-strike wild pitch.

"We battled all day," Babb said. "It's a disappointing way to lose, but that's baseball, I guess. We gave them their first loss, had them on the ropes, but things didn't turn out our way."

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