Texas Lutheran University is on its way to the NCAA Division III World Series.
Senior Keaton Boysen hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday night to lift the Bulldogs to a 6-5 victory over Willamette (Ore.) for the Spokane Regional championship.
With runners at first and second base and one out, the Bearcats brought in freshman Liam Keefe to pitch to Boysen.
Boysen flared a ball into the outfield, and Ben Marvin came around to score, beating the throw easily with a head-first slide.
Trailing by four runs after six innings, the Bulldogs rallied with one run in the seventh and four in the eighth to take a 5-4 lead.
Tyler Cauley delivered the big blow in the eighth with a two-run homer.
In response, Willamette tied the score in the top of the ninth on a solo homer by Perry Van Eckhardt down the right field line.
Moving into the 10th, Willamette loaded the bases on three walks by reliever Dylan Drgac.
But Drew Waller replaced Drgac on the mound and immediately got TLU out of trouble.
First, Cameron Igarashi popped up to short right field. Next, Van Eckardt, who had three hits on the day, fouled out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the 10th, Marvin led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
Cauley followed with another walk, which prompted Willamette to take out Joseph Faudskar and replace him with Keefe.
Boysen, an Arizona native and a transfer from Gateway College, greeted Keefe with a single to center for the winner.
As a result, Seguin-based TLU is headed to the World Series for the first time.
The series will open Friday at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin.
TLU will enter the showcase event having won 10 games in a row.
“It’s a credit to all these guys,” TLU coach Greg Burnett said in the post-game news conference. “They’ve been awesome.”
Texas Lutheran 38-9
Willamette (Ore.) 31-19
Playing for a friend
TLU dedicated its season to the late Keaton Bohrmann, a former four-year Bulldogs player who died in a car wreck last fall. He was 23. Bohrmann was killed in the one-vehicle accident last October.
In tribute to their friend, many of the players would write ‘KB4’ in their hats and gloves this season, a spokesman said in an email.
On Sunday, with a berth in the championship series on the line, the players scrawled “KB4” in the dirt adjacent to the on-deck-circle and behind home plate.
Bohrmann, who played through 2016 and earned three all-conference designations, wore jersey No. 4 for the Bulldogs.
Outfielder Matthew Lemon, who ripped an RBI double to give TLU a 5-4 lead on Willamette in the eighth, addressed in the post-game news conference the team’s feelings about the tragedy and its aftermath.
“We took the news hard when we heard what happened,” Lemon said. “But we kind of took a step back, as a team, the seniors together and all the other guys, (and) you know, we had a feeling that we could do something special with him looking down on us.
“It’s a surreal feeling, to be sitting here right now. We’ve come a long way. We’re super proud, and we’re not done yet. We’re ready to get going (to the World Series). It feels good right now.”
TLU entered the six-team regional in Spokane, Washington, as the No. 4 seed, and the Bulldogs rose to the challenge by winning four straight games to win the title.
Led by 11th-year coach Greg Burnett, the Bulldogs defeated Concordia (Texas) 9-8 in the opener last Thursday.
They followed Saturday with a pair of victories, winning 2-1 against UT Dallas and knocking off Willamette, 6-1.
Sixth-seeded Willamette knocked off top-seeded Chapman 10-5 last Thursday. The Bearcats eliminated Concordia, from Austin, by a 13-4 score on Friday.
After losing to TLU on Saturday, the Bearcats responded with a 10-3 win Sunday morning to reach the championship round.
Willamette, with one loss, would have needed two wins against TLU in the title round to advance.
The second game in the title round would have been played on Monday morning.
Instead, TLU will be returning home to prepare for its trip to the CWS.