La Crosse, Wis. - (UW-La Crosse Athletics) The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse baseball team earned its second consecutive trip to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championship with a 5-3 victory over Saint John's University (Minn.) in the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championship Saturday afternoon at Copeland Park. The Eagles improve to 38-8 on the season and advance to the national championships May 27-31 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Saint John's (Minn.) ends its season at 32-13.
UWL will face Trinity University (Texas) Friday, May 27 at 1:15 p.m. at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton.
The Eagles took the lead in the bottom of the first inning Saturday. Alex Cordova reached with one out on a Saint John's (Minn.) fielding error. He advanced to second on Taylor Kohlwey's single through the right side. Justin Anderson singled to load the bases, and after a pop-out, Ben Morgan singled to drive in Cordova and Kohlwey to give UWL a 2-0 lead.
With the single, Kohlwey extended his hitting streak to 49 games, second all-time in Division III history.
Saint John's (Minn.) got on the board in the top of the second inning. Patrick Strey walked to open the frame, followed by a single from Jack Wingerd and a sacrifice bunt from Dan Keller, moving the runners to second and third. After a strikeout, Strey scored and Wingerd moved to third on a wild pitch from UWL starter Caleb Boushley to cut the Eagles lead to 2-1. A Gabe MacDonald single to left field drove in Wingerd and tied the game at 2-2.
UWL regained the lead with a run on three hits in the bottom of the third. Carter Hoffman and Morgan had back-to-back one-out singles, and with two outs, Alex Brown singled to left field, knocking Hoffman for a 3-2 lead.
The Eagles added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth. Joel Zyhowski doubled to right field and Cordova was hit-by-pitch to start the inning. Kohlwey reached on a bunt single to load the bases and Anderson's RBI single to center field scored Zyhowski for a 4-2 lead. Anderson's 79th RBI of the season extended his UWL single-season record. Hoffman followed with a sacrifice fly to score Cordova, pushing the lead to 5-2.
Saint John's (Minn.) stranded a runner in the sixth and two more in the seventh, but the Johnnies' first two batters reached to start the ninth against UWL starter Caleb Boushley. Wingerd reached on an fielding error to start the inning followed by a Dan Keller single to right field. Boushley got Alex Kendall to hit a gound ball to shortstop with Cordova throwing to third to force Wingerd for the first out of the inning. Brock Rude came in relief of Boushley and was greeted by deep fly-out to center field by MacDonald for the second out of the inning. Max Jackson then reached on a UWL fielding error to score Keller and cut the Eagles' lead to 5-3. With runners at first and second, Rude struck out Cole Weaver for the final out.
Boushley (10-0) earned the win for UWL, going 8.1 innings, allowing eight hits, three runs (two earned) and one walk while striking out five. It was his second victory in the regional after picking up the victory in the Eagles' 17-2 win over Beloit College (Wis.) May 18. With the win Saturday, Boushley tied Brad Anderson's single-season school record of 10 victories set in 1989. Boushley has pitched at least 6.0 innings in 10 of his 12 starts this year.
Rude earned his fifth save of the season Saturday, going 0.2 of an inning with one strikeout.
Morgan went 2-for-4 with two RBI for the Eagles. Kohlwey added two hits to bring his season total to 91, extending his own UWL single-season record. Anderson finished with two hits and an RBI.
UWL's Anderson, Boushley, Kohlwey, Travis Buxton-Verstegen and Nate Heili were named to the NCAA IIl All-Midwest Regional Team at the conclusion of the tournament.
Patrick Strey (4-5) took the loss for Saint John's (Minn.), going 4.0 innings while allowing nine hits, five runs (three earned) and one walk with one strikeout. Marcus Barone went 4.0 innings, allowing one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. MacDonald went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Johnnies.
The Johnnies' Logan Hershey and Alex Kendall were selected to the All-Midwest Regional Team.
Other players selected to the team included Martin Alcoverde of The College of St. Scholastica (Minn.), Mitch Knippenberg and Alex Weber of Luther College (Iowa) and Mitch Wilson of Concordia University Chicago (Ill.).