Tyler Cauley belted a tie-breaking solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, leading Texas Lutheran University to a 5-4 victory over Concordia Chicago and a berth in the championship round of the NCAA Division III World Series.
Seeking the first national title in TLU baseball history, the Bulldogs will play the UT Tyler Patriots in a best-of-three series starting Tuesday.
A doubleheader is scheuled to get underway at 11 a.m. in Appleton, Wis. A third game, if necessary, would be played Wednesday.
Showing up last week as a first-time entry in the DIII World Series, the Seguin-based Bulldogs have made themselves right at home at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton.
They have won four out of five games since Friday night to win Pool B and earn the right to play for the championship.
After losing 8-3 to Concordia Saturday night, the Bulldogs claimed three straight wins in elimination games.
First, they downed Swarthmore, Pa., 3-2 in 13 innnings on Sunday afternoon. Next, they beat Concordia 9-7 in a game that started Sunday night and lasted until about 1 a.m. Monday.
Next, they won their biggest game of the year in dramatic fashion late Monday afternoon, with Cauley breaking a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eighth on a solo homer off reliever Cody Caballero.
In the ninth, Dylan Murrell enterered as TLU’s fourth pitcher of the day following Dylan Drgac, Cade Killingsworth and Drew Waller.
Joe Silva greeted Murrell with a single to open the inning.
From there, the junior righthander fired strikes and let his defense do the work, first on a fly ball out, and, finally, on a spectacular, game-ending double play.
Second baseman Ben Marvin ranged to his left and gloved a ground ball, spun and whipped a throw to Eric Rabinowitz.
Rabinowitz, a senior from Schertz Clemens, fired a rocket to first base to beat Mitch Wilson by a half step for the last out.
From TLU’s Tyler Cauley:
“Going into the at-bat I was kind of struggling throughout the day, barely missing balls and stuff. I talked to Riley Schaefer right before the (at) bat, and he said, ‘Just trust what you know, and see what pitch you can get right over the plate, and just let it fly.’ Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
TLU athletics has not played for a team sport national championship in a one-on-one game setting since 1981, when the Bulldogs’ women’s volleyball team played for the AIAW-II national title. The volleyball team finished as the runnerup.
Texas Lutheran 42-10
Concordia Chicago 40-15
UT Tyler’s journey
The Patriots have won three of four to win Pool A and move into the championship series. They defeated Oswego State (N.Y.) 10-5 on Friday and Misericordia (Pa.) 7-3 on Saturday.
Trying to sweep through the top bracket, they stumbled Sunday and lost 6-1 to Randolph Macon (Va.) But in bouncing back on Monday, UT Tyler exploded for six runs in the fifth inning to beat Randolph Macon, 8-6.
A rematch for the title
UT Tyler and TLU met in Seguin in February, and the Patriots swept the three-game series. In the second game, the Patriots beat TLU ace Nathan Malinovsky, handing him his only loss of the season.
Starters for Tuesday’s game haven’t been announced, but Malinovsky (12-1) has had three days rest since he shut out Wooster, Ohio, 7-0, on Friday night.
Trailing by three runs, TLU came to life in the fifth inning on an RBI double from Eric Rabinowitz and a two-run single by Riley Schaefer. Scoring off Schaefer’s hit, Rabinowitz slid head first at home to tie the game, 3-3.