CARY, N.C. — It was supposed to be a pitcher's duel.
Franklin Pierce (N.H.) sent lefthander Steve Hathaway to the mound (2.51, 34 SO/IP), an intriguing but often-injured arm who can dial it up as high as 95 MPH. And Minnesota State-Mankato started Harvey Martin (8-0, 1.52), the Central Region pitcher of the year and one of two Mavericks aces.
Given their reputations, it looked like Monday's Division II World Series winner's bracket game would be a low-scoring one. But it wasn't — eventually spiraling into a messy 10-5 MSU win.
The Mavericks drew first blood. Second baseman Lucas Skjefte deposited a 1-1 fastball from Hathaway over the left-field fence to give MSU a 1-0 first-inning lead. Then, MSU knocked Hathaway out of the game in the third, chewing through three Franklin Pierce pitchers and taking advantage of three errors for a five-run inning.
The biggest blow was self-inflicted as the Ravens tried to turn a bases-loaded double play. They threw the ball away twice — once to first and once trying to catch a runner at third — allowing three runs to score.
"You're not gonna beat a good team like that making as many mistakes as we did," Franklin Pierce coach Jayson Kind said.
Up 6-0 after three with Martin on the mound, the Mavericks should've been in solid position to put the Ravens away. Before Monday, MSU pitchers had allowed more than one run only once in their last 11 games.
But Martin relented for an RBI single in the fifth, and with two outs in the seventh, a fielding error from MSU shortstop Todd Standish opened the door for a four-hit, four-run Franklin Pierce inning.
"I started leaving the ball up a little bit," Martin said. "I wouldn't like to say I ran out of gas. I feel like I'm better than that. My stuff felt good. My body felt fine."
But the results weren't up to snuff, and Martin — who had pitched complete games in back-to-back starts — had a relatively early exit after 6 2/3 innings.
Suddenly, the Ravens were down by one run, 6-5. And with the kind of pitching the Marvericks have gotten lately, that wasn't exactly expected.
"You can kind of, maybe not give up an at-bat, but maybe get a little comfortable," Skjefte said. "We kind of let them back in, kind of switched the momentum around."
Fortunately for the Mavericks, they were able to snatch it back with a four-run inning of their own in the bottom of the eighth, as Skjefte and right fielder Scott Lindner drove in two runs apiece. And submarining closer Mahlon Zimmerman came on to pitch two scoreless innings to neutralize the rallying Ravens and earn a save.
"When the momentum changes, we have to be able to stop it and shift the momentum," Mavericks coach Matt Magers said. "And that's one of the toughest things in sports to do is to stop that momentum from going the other way."
There may have been more momentum shifting than anticipated Monday, but by the end, the Mavericks got it to shift back in their favor.
Grand Valley State Eliminates Shippensburg
Grand Valley (Mich.) State center fielder Mike Nadratowski knew his team needed to get off to a much better offensive start Monday. As the leadoff hitter, he put that responsibility on himself.
Two days ago, the Lakers ran into Minnesota State-Mankato righthander Jason Hoppe and helped him extend his 42 2/3 inning scoreless streak nine more innings in a 1-0 loss. But on Monday, Nadratowski started the day's proceedings by ripping a triple to left field against Shippensburg (Pa.) pitcher Tom Bush, setting a vastly different tone.
Nadratowski scored on the very next pitch — a Stephen Claypool double — as the Lakers batted around and scored three runs to begin the game.
Nadratowski (.335/.428/.366) went 4 for 5 on the day and drove in three runs in the 8-4 win.
"It was very important," said Nadratowski on scoring quickly. "We only had four hits the first game, so the offense did a better job of hopping on them early and just getting on base and putting some pressure on them. All our hitters top to bottom did a better job today."
After Hoppe pitched a complete game against Grand Valley State on Saturday, Bush lasted just 2/3 of an inning, coughing up four hits and walking two to pick up the loss in Shippensburg's elimination game.
For the Lakers, Anthony Campanella (9-4, 1.74) had a 3-0 lead before he threw a single pitch, and the righthander threw up zeroes for five innings as the Grand Valley State lead swelled to 7-0.
Despite falling behind early, Shippensburg didn't fold easily.
After hitting second-hole batter Cal Hogan with one out in the sixth, Campanella allowed five straight hits and three runs to the Raiders before inducing an inning-ending double play on a two-seamer.
"Coach (Jamie) Detillion tells me all the time when I get in a bind to slow the game down," Campanella said. "I kind of sped it up. I was really upset with myself — 0-2 I had the kid, and I hit him. And then I tried to make too fine of pitches after that."
Campanella settled down afterward to throw two more scoreless innings, but the Raiders threatened again in the ninth, loading the bases on three straight singles and scoring on a sacrifice fly.
Ultimately, the Raiders stranded two baserunners with a popup and a flyout to end the game and their tournament run.
"Our thing in the dugout is always, 'Just wait for it. It's going to come, it's going to come," Raiders coach Matt Jones said. "It wouldn't have surprised me if we came back and did it, even here.
"Shoot, we got two rallies going. If we get two more hits, dinks, dunks, seeing-eye singles — anything — we might be having a different conversation right now."
But the Lakers simply dug Shippensburg into too deep a hole.
"When you get shut out, I think teams are hungry to come here and do well offensively," Detillion said. "We've been taking great batting practice, and to me, that's the kind of stuff that transfers to results and games.
"We had a great round of batting practice today, and guys just came ready to play."