In its first appearance in the NCAA Division III College World Series finals since 2008, Johns Hopkins baseball faces an uphill battle to win its first national title.
The top-seeded Blue Jays brought the potential winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday, but they fell short in a 5-2 loss to No. 3 seed Lynchburg in Game 1 of the best-of-three series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Game 2 is Thursday at noon, with a potential winner-take-all Game 3 following Thursday afternoon.
The Hornets (47-7) struck early against Hopkins starting pitcher Kieren Collins, who loaded the bases in the top of the first inning with a walk and two hit batters before allowing a two-run double by Eric Hiett. Collins settled down and did not allow another run until the fifth, but the Blue Jays could not break through against Lynchburg starter Zack Potts, who allowed just two runs, both unearned, on seven hits in nine innings.
Hopkins (47-7) mounted a rally in the eighth by loading the bases on a pair of singles and a throwing error, but Potts got Blue Jays star third baseman Shawn Steuerer to flyout to right field and catcher Sam Frank to groundout to third base to limit the damage to one run.
The Blue Jays threatened again in the bottom of the ninth after center fielder Tripp Myers (Gilman) reached on a throwing error, advanced to third on a single by designated hitter Caleb Cyr and scored on a sacrifice fly by second baseman James Stevens to make it 5-2. A single by shortstop Dylan Whitney and a throwing error on a ground ball by right fielder Sam Browning loaded the bases and brought the potential winning run to the plate, but left fielder Matthew Cooper — batting leadoff for injured right fielder Alex Shane, who had a team-best .432 batting average — and first baseman Dillon Souvignier both flied out to end the game.
Of the seven hits Potts allowed, just one went for extra bases. Myers (2-for-4) was the only Blue Jay to collect multiple hits as Johns Hopkins left nine runners on base. Steuerer finished 0-for-3, though his 14 RBIs are just two shy of the Division III College World Series record.
While the Blue Jays have their backs against the wall, it hasn’t been an uncomfortable position for them. Since 2007, Hopkins is 40-17 in elimination games, including 26-12 in the NCAA Tournament and 5-4 in the College World Series.
NCAA Division III College World Series
Johns Hopkins vs. Lynchburg
At Cedar Rapids, Iowa