MOOSIC, Pa. - Salve Regina University baseball trailed by three in its final at bat before scoring a run, placing the tying run on base, and bringing the game-winning run to the plate, but No. 10 Salisbury University held on for a 5-3 victory to eliminate the Seahawks from the NCAA Division III Championships Mid-Atlantic Regional at PNC Field.
Three Sea Gulls pitchers combined to strike out 13 Seahawks in the victory. Starter Pete Grasso went six innings to pick up his seventh victory (7-2) allowing just one earned run on three hits while striking out eight.
With the Sea Gulls advancing to the NCAA tournament this season, the program has now made 17-straight appearances in the national playoff. Salisbury's streak began in the 2000 season and has included 12 CAC championships and five College World Series berths. It is the second-longest active streak in Division III for advancing to the tournament, only behind State University of New York at Cortland's 24-straight appearances.
Salisbury's lineup contains nine players that have all hit a home run in 2016, led by senior Jake Dmiterchik's nine. Seniors Kyle Goodwin and Tyler Hrycak and junior Pete Grasso have each smashed seven long balls on the year, giving the team's top-four home run hitters 30 combined. As a team, the Sea Gulls have blasted 43 home runs, which is good for No. 6 in the country, while their 1.23 home runs per game is second in the nation.
The Seahawks entered Thursday's contest with one of the more formidable offenses in the country, which ranked 24th with a .330 team batting average and 51st with a 7.5 runs-per-game average. They are also one of the best running teams in the country, ranking ninth with 100 total stolen bases on the year. John Militano and Ryan Kelly lead the team with 26 and 22 stolen bases, respectively, while Zack Smith paces the squad with a .417 average.
Smith went hitless against Salisbury, but Kelly staked out a 4-for-4 day at the plate in his final game in a Seahawk uniform.
After a scoreless first two innings, both teams plated runs in the third. Salve Regina starter Billy Humes retired the first Sea Gull on a fly to Kelly in center before two singles and a walk loaded the bases. Grasso helped himself at the plate with an RBI single to left field. An infield pop was handled by Militano at second base for two outs, but Humes walked in the second Sea Gulls' run.
Sophomore Kyle Lefelar came in relief and induced a weak grounder that was misplayed for an unearned run. Lefelar struck out the next batter to limit the damage to three runs.
Salve Regina shortstop Hunter Sleeper doubled with one out in the bottom of the third and eventually came around to score on Militano's fielder's choice grounder.
Lefelar pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless ball while allowing just two hits and a walk. Will Ginsberg followed in the seventh with a one-two-three frame. Alex Lipman made the Sea Gull lead 5-1 with a two-out, two-run single up the middle in the top of the eighth off Ginsberg.
In the previous half inning, Salve Regina sophomore Alex Perry was robbed of a game-tying hit down the left field line when senior Kyle Goodwin went into the corner and leaped at the wall for the catch and final out.
Smith walked to lead off the Seahawk eighth and came around to score on a bases-loaded wild pitch.
Salve Regina reliever Tommy Seaver (no relation) had a one-two-three outing in the top of the ninth to give the Seahawks a chance in their final at bat, trailing 5-2.
Kelly led off the ninth with his fourth single, deep in the shortstop hole, and advanced to second on a balk. Perry drove in the third Seahawk run with a single through the right side. Tristan Dacey kept the Seahawk hopes alive with a single to right field and was replaced on the basepaths by pinch runner and senior captain Mike Schuermann. Pinch hitter John Kussmaul battled through several fouled pitches before swinging and missing on a Jon Schmedel delivery. Schmedel struck out four batters in 1.2 innings.
While the Seahawk season ends, the Sea Gulls will face the winner of UMass Boston and Penn State Berks University on Friday (10 a.m.).