Hopkins Wins Game Two of the Series, Forces Winner-Take-All Final

Brandon Garcia went 3-for-5 with a double, triple, and three RBI in Lynchburg's 11-6 loss to Johns Hopkins in game two of the best-of-3 final series at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo Credit: Caroline Gerke, Lynchburg
Brandon Garcia went 3-for-5 with a double, triple, and three RBI in Lynchburg's 11-6 loss to Johns Hopkins in game two of the best-of-3 final series at the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo Credit: Caroline Gerke, Lynchburg

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa --- Johns Hopkins University posted an 11-6 victory over the University of Lynchburg in the first of two possible games in the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship final best-of-three series on Thursday afternoon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The result forces a winner-take-all third game of the series set for approximately 3:45 p.m. ET on PG Cares Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Nine of the game's 17 combined runs were unearned as Lynchburg (47-8) and Hopkins (48-7) combined for five errors, three by the Hornets. There was still plenty of offense with 19 combined hits including 10 for extra bases.

JHU starter Gabriel Romano went the distance and threw 164 pitches in improving to 11-1 on the year. He allowed six runs with just one earned on nine hits. He walked one batter and fanned nine. He retired 10 straight batters through the middle innings before an error allowed a Hornet on base in the seventh inning.

Brandon Pond took the loss for Lynchburg, falling to 5-2 as he battled through 4.2 innings before giving way to the bullpen, which had been dormant since the first day of the event in Iowa thanks to Lynchburg's stellar starting pitching. Four of Pond's seven runs allowed were unearned. He gave up six hits and walked three to go with six strikeouts. Matt Cassidy, Trevor Barnes and Travis Shumate followed Pond out of the pen. Cassidy allowed two runs on three hits with a walk and three K's over 2.2 frames. Barnes was blemish-free over 0.2 innings, while Shumate gave up two runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout in his inning of work.

Shortstop Brandon Garcia continued to star for Lynchburg, going 3-for-5 with a double, triple, three RBI, and two runs scored. He has now reached base safely in six straight games. He is 8-for-21 with four walks and eight runs scored in Iowa. Second baseman Benton Jones added a double and drove in a run. Left fielder Avery Neaves and first baseman Eric Hiett brought a Hornet each around to score.

Second baseman Jimmy Stevens and left fielder Matthew Cooper led the Blue Jays offense. Stevens went 2-for-5 with four RBI powered by a two-run homer. Cooper went 2-for-3 with three RBI and registered his Divsion III-best 25th homer of the season. Shortstop Dylan Whitney went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.


The early going was a bit sloppy for both teams as errors and free passes led to a run apiece in the first inning. Hopkins opened the scoring just as the first out was recorded. Pond hit Cooper with a pitch to lead off the game and then walked first baseman Dillon Souvignier. A throwing error on a force attempt at second allowed third baseman Shawn Steuer to reach on a fielder's choice to load the bases. Catcher Sam Frank brought Cooper the final 90 feet with a grounder to short for a 1-0 lead. JHU reloaded the bases when Pond walked designated hitter Caleb Cyr with two down, but the Hornets' righty surrounded his second base on balls with strikeouts of centerfielder Tripp Myers and Stevens to end the threat.

Lynchburg responded by taking the lead in the bottom of the frame. Garcia led off with a double over the right fielder's head. He moved up to third two batters later when the throw from short on Neaves's grounder pulled the first baseman off the bag to put runners on the corners. DH Sean Pokorak was hit by a pitch to load the bases, leading to Hiett's RBI tapper fielded by the pitcher near the third base line. Neaves scored during the next at bat via a passed ball for a 2-1 lead.

The Hornets made it 3-1 through two innings with all-around good offense. Right fielder Jackson Harding led off the inning with a single up the middle. After stealing second base, Harding moved to third on catcher Holden Fiedler's single to left-center. Garcia continued his hot hitting with a single over second base to drive in Harding.

Johns Hopkins pulled one run closer in the third inning. Souvignier led off with a double off the left field wall. Pond nearly averted any damage after getting Steuer to fly to left and fanning Frank, but Myers dropped the head of the bat on a good inside fastball for a single towards the right field corner to drive in Souvignier and cut Lynchburg's lead to 3-2.

The Blue Jays turned the game on its head in the fifth with a five-run frame. Cooper homer to left to lead off the inning and tie the score at 3-3. Souvignier smacked his second double, this time to left-center, and Blue Jays occupied the corners after a dropped fly ball in left allowed Steuer to reach. A balk prior to a 1-2 pitch to Frank moved both runners up a bag, giving JHU a 4-3 lead when Souvignier crossed the dish. Pond struck out Frank for his sixth whiff of the game. Lynchburg went to the bullpen for the first time since day one in Iowa after Pond issued a two-out walk to Cyr and Stevens slapped a double over the right fielder's head to score both Steuer and Cyr for a 6-3 advantage.

Matt Cassidy took to the hill in Cedar Rapids for the first time. Whitney greeted him with a single to right-center to plate Stevens for the Blue Jays fifth run of the inning. Cassidy took care of a chopper back to the mound by right fielder Sam Browning, ending the top of the fifth with JHU leading, 7-3.

Hopkins tacked on two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. A single by Whitney and a HBP to pinch hitter Charles Monterrosa set up a two-run double to left by Cooper. Trevor Barnes relieved Cassidy and registered the next two outs to end the eighth inning.

Shumate entered the game for the ninth inning out of Lynchburg's bullpen. Stevens collected his third and fourth RBIs of the contest with a two-run line-shot homer to left in the ninth. Cyr stepped on the plate along with Stevens to bring the score to 11-3 JHU.

Lynchburg potentially gained some momentum for the winner-take-all final with three runs in the bottom of the inning. With one down, pinch hitter Logan Webster reached on an error at second base. Garcia collected his third hit of the day with a triple off the right fielder's glove as he prevented a potential two-run homer with a leap at the wall. Jones followed with a double beyond the left fielder's glove for the second run of the inning. Neaves plated Jones for the third run and an 11-6 score with a soft-liner over the second baseman's head.