The Marietta College baseball program Wednesday won its second National Championship in a row and its sixth in the program's history.
The Pioneers are the first NCAA Division III team to win back-to-back titles since Glassboro State did so in 1978 and 1979. MC leads all Division III teams with six World Series wins.
It was head coach Brian Brewer's third championship as skipper of the Pioneers, who also won in 2006 and 2011.
ERIC LINDQUIST Special to The Times
Marietta College baseball players celebrate their championship win Wednesday.
Marietta, Wheaton and St. Thomas all came into the day with one loss. Marietta beat St. Thomas in the first game, and advanced to play Wheaton in the championship game.
The Pioneers struck first in the championship game. Kirby Becker led off with an infield single, and was bunted to second by Tim Saunders. Aaron Hopper followed with a sharp single to center to plate Becker and give Marietta the 1-0 lead.
The Etta Express continued their rally in the second. Evan Brockmeier led off with a single over the second baseman's head, and Niko Stanislav followed with a groundball single past third base. After Alex Toth bunted the runners over, Bryan Gregorich singled to right field to drive in Brockmeier, and Becker singled to the left side for the second time to bring in Stanislav. Saunders then singled to right field to load the bases with one out. Hopper took advantage with runners in scoring position yet again with a flyout to right field that was deep enough to score Gregorich and give Marietta a 4-0 advantage after just two innings.
Wheaton finally got on the board in the top of the fifth. Apolinar De la Cruz led off with a walk, and came all the way around to score on a double down the left field line by Dan Gusovsky.
The Pioneers got the run right back in the next half inning. Wheaton start Alec Palioca got two quick outs, but walked Josh Ungerbuehler on four pitches. Ungerbuehler proceeded to steal second, and then came around to score on a single to right field by Brockmeier to put Marietta up 5-1.
Saunders, an All-American, made the defensive play of the game in the sixth. With runners at first and second and two outs, De la Cruz hit a sharp line drive between Saunders and third baseman Gregorich. Saunders took two steps to his right and layed out to catch the ball on one hop. He got up and threw a one hopper to Brockmeier first to get the final out of the inning. Saunders made the play, which saved at least a run, shortly after committing an error on a potential double play.
The Pioneers got more insurance in the bottom of the sixth. Toth led off with a single and was bunted to second by Gregorich. After Saunders was intentionally walked, Hopper came up with a two out single to left field which scored Toth and gave MC a 6-1 lead, this off Wheaton reliever frank Holbrook.
Wheaton got a run back in the seventh. Gusovsky led off with a double down the left field line, was bunted to third by Kevin Foley and scored on a groundout to second by John Keating. The Pioneer lead was now down to 6-2.
Marietta extended the lead back to five in the seventh. After Brockmeier was hit by a pitch, Toth singled to left. Wheaton brought in reliever David Longley, who gave up a single to the first batter he faced in Gregorich, which scored Brockmeier to make Marietta's lead 7-2.
Gasser got into a jam in the eighth, giving up leadoff singles to Hal Landers and Eric Jensen. After retiring Ryan on a fielder's choice, Gasser gave up another single to Dan Haugh to load the bases. Gasser was able to avoid any damage, as he struck out De la Cruz and got Gusovsky to fly out to Hopper to end the inning.
Logan Lewis came on to pitch the final inning, and struck out the last batter looking to close out the victory for the Pioneers. Gasser went eight innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out six to earn the victory. Palioca got the loss for Wheaton, going 4.2 innings and giving up five earned runs.
The Etta Express defeated St. Thomas 5-0 in the first game to advance to the championship game.
St. Thomas had defeated the Pioneers 3-1 earlier in the tournament, which put MC in the loser's bracket. Much like at the Mideast Regional, the Pioneers were able to perform well with their backs against the wall.
Eight Pioneers played their last game in the pinstripes for Marietta, as Saunders, Gasser, Mahaffey, Becker, Stanislav, Lindquist, Logan Lewis and Austin Blaski all graduated.