No. 19 Point Park eliminated from NAIA Opening Rd with loss to Midland (Neb.)
May 13, 2014 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Tom Birko is one of 10 seniors who played their final game for Point Park baseball. Photo by Jackie Eigner.
MARION, Ind. -- No. 19 Point Park University was eliminated from the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round with a 6-3 loss to Midland (Neb.) University in the first game of the loser's bracket in the Marion (Ind.) Bracket on Tuesday afternoon.
Point Park (40-18, 16-4 KIAC), the No. 2 seed, could not muster much offense and thus its season came to an end. No. 4 seed Midland (43-18) advances in the loser's bracket to play No. 1 seed and NAIA No. 5-ranked Georgetown (Ky.) (42-9) at a date and time TBA.
Midland, the champion of the Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament, jumped out to a 4-1 lead after three innings, and that was the Warriors' lead when the game was halted for a weather delay with Midland due up in the bottom of the fifth.
After a 4-hour, 28-minute delay due to rain and lightning, Midland got right back to work and scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth on Cole Gray's two-run single with two outs to increase the lead to 6-1.
That gave the Warriors the breathing room they needed, as Point Park never got closer than the 6-3 final margin. Two Midland pitchers combined to give up just five Point Park hits, none of which drove in any runs.
Winning pitcher Dillon Cotner (11-2) pitched the first 5.0 innings and did not return after the weather delay. That was a break for Point Park because Cotner gave up just one run on one hit and did not walk a batter. He struck out only one but let a strong defense that flashed some leather behind him carry the load.
Cotner retired the final 12 batters he faced to maintain the 4-1 lead for Midland entering the delay. Reliever Josh Johnson, a lefty who is the Warriors' No. 3 starter, also had strong work and gave up only two runs on four hits in his four innings. He struck out two, and like Cotner, did not walk a batter.
Three of Point Park's five hits were doubles, but the Pioneers could never put the big inning together. That was due in part because all three of the Pioneers' runs came in exchange for an out.
The Pioneers' Michael DeJesus doubled in the second, moved to third on a fly out and scored on Jonathan Tasis' sacrifice fly to tie the score at 1-1.
Trailing, 6-1, Point Park had the makings of a big inning when Ossie Alfonzo doubled and Shane Conley singled to put runners at second and third with no outs in the eighth. Point Park managed two runs in the inning, but each one scored when precious outs were given up on groundouts to the right side by Tom Birko and Yuliecer Arias.
The only other time that Point Park had a runner in scoring position was when Javy Marticorena ripped a two-out double in the top of the first. That was one of only three men left on base for the Pioneers.
Midland totaled 10 hits versus three Point Park pitchers, and it was Alex Mateo who got the start for the Pioneers. The sophomore from Miami, Fla., went all 4.0 innings before the delay and gave up four runs on seven hits. He walked three batters and struck out one and used 95 pitches.
Midland's cleanup hitter Jordyn Van Atta came up big with an RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the first to give the Warriors an early, 1-0 lead.
The Warriors tacked on two more in the second when Gray delivered an RBI base hit. Gray, the No. 9 hitter, was 3 for 3 with three RBIs. The second inning continued with a bases-loaded walk to Zach Kinsella to force in a run for a 3-1 lead.
Midland's Dylan Steyer led off the third inning with a double off the wall, and he came home on a two-out RBI by Miguel Ramallo, who came up with a bloop single to make it 4-1.
Senior right-hander Isaiah Marsh entered the game for Point Park after the delay, and he pitched the middle three innings. Van Atta was the first batter after the 4.5-hour stoppage, and he doubled in the gap. Even though Van Atta's double put Marsh in trouble right away, the damaging blow didn't come until Gray's two-RBI single with two outs for the 6-1 lead.
Point Park closer Toby Eigner pitched the bottom of the eighth and kept the score at 6-3, but the Pioneers were retired in order in the top of the ninth to end the game and the season.
For Point Park, the loss ends the career of 10 seniors, eight of which were on the team for three or more years. Point Park has been ranked in the NAIA Top 25 each of the last four years and is one of only 13 teams to make the NAIA National Championship Opening Round the last three years.
The Pioneers' senior class was 170-58 for a winning percentage of .746 the last four years. That included a trip to the NAIA World Series in 2012 with a team-record for wins and 53-11 record.