The nation’s top-ranked team punched its ticket to the national championship game, as No. 1 Mount Olive (N.C.) held off a late rally by No. 7 Central Missouri to move within one win of the title for the first time in school history. Its opponent, however, remained up in the air after No. 4 Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) forced a decisive second semifinal game.
After leading 5-1 in the seventh, Mount Olive–now the only unbeaten team left in the tournament–nearly let this one slip away. The Trojans (57-6) gave up a run in the seventh and another in the eighth, then allowed two Mule baserunners in the ninth before Patrick Ball slammed the door shut to earn his third save in the 5-3 final. Kyle Jones notched the win in just his second start of the season. After not playing baseball for three years, he has come on strong for the Trojans in the postseason. He allowed two runs on five hits against Central Missouri. Rich Racobaldo was 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs, and Erik Lovett and Josh Harrison added two hits apiece. Central Missouri’s season ends at 47-17.
No matter which team Mount Olive squares off against in the championship, its opponent will have a World Series loss on its resume. Previously undefeated Sonoma State (Calif.), ranked second nationally, was upset by Ouachita Baptist in the other semifinal matchup Thursday. Since the Tigers already had a loss, they needed two consecutive wins against the Seawolves to make the championship. The first came in a tight 2-1 contest. The "if-necessary" game will be played today at noon at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill. A pair of Smiths took care of business for Ouachita Baptist (50-15) on the mound. Steve Smith recorded the win, tossing 6 1/3 innings and allowing the lone Seawolf run. He struck out five in the process. Alex Smith came in to earn the save. The Tigers jumped ahead with both runs in the first two innings and then held on, as Sonoma State (52-14) left the bases loaded late in a one-run contest. Check back later today for the results of the second Ouachita Baptist-Sonoma State game and to find out more about the championship game matchup.