NCAA Division III baseball championship: Tommies in must-win mode after Game 1 loss

If St. Thomas is going to win the NCAA Division III championship, it is going to have to do it the hard way.

The Tommies had their winning streak halted at six games Monday as Salisbury handed them a a 6-1 loss in the opening game of the best-of-three series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

They now have to win twice Tuesday to claim the championship, starting with an 11 a.m. contest.

That will be atall task against No. 6 Salisbury, which was at the top of its game for starters.

Monday’s win was the 13th straight for the Sea Gulls (33-4), who racked up 12 hits and made several running grabs in the outfield.

Salisbury used two pitchers who have accounted for 19 victories — lefty starter Jackson Balzan (9-1), and All-America righty Clayton Dwyer (10-0) — and that duo allowed just one run and struck out seven on the day.

Adding to the Tommies’ challenge for Tuesday was a leg injury that forced Jake Porter to leave Monday’s game.

Before straining his leg while playing right field, Porter went 2 for 2 and extended his hitting streak to nine games and his string of reaching base to 17 games.

St. Thomas put its first three batters aboard with singles in the first inning but managed just three hits the rest of the day.

Charlie Bartholomew’s infield grounder scored a run but was turned into a double play.

Salisbury went ahead to stay in the second when Jacob Ference lined a two-run home run just inside the foul pole at the 315-foot mark in left field.

The Sea Gulls took command in the fifth, getting a two-run, bad-hop double and adding another run to make it a 5-1 game.

Salisbury, which is looking for its first Division III baseball championship, added an insurance run in the sixth for the final margin.

After Monday, that title is just one win away, but St. Thomas has been here before.

The Tommies got to Cedar Rapids by winning three regional elimination games in 24 hours from May 29-30.

St. Thomas also won its second NCAA titles in 2009 by beating Wooster twice on the last day.

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