Defending Division III national champion Marietta (Ohio) will get a chance to defend its crown after knocking off St. Thomas (Minn.) 5-0 behind a dominant pitching effort by senior righthander Mike Mahaffey. The Pioneers will face Wheaton (Mass.) in the championship game scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis.
Mahaffey gave the five-time champion Pioneers a much-needed quality start and allowed the bullpen to rest for the second half of today's doubleheader by tossing eight shutout innings in which he yielded just four hits and a walk. Marietta senior shortstop Tim Saunders went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and junior left fielder Mitch Geers added three hits and two RBIs to lead Marietta.
St. Thomas showed signs of a rally in the eighth inning after Ben Podobinski and Dan Reichert hit back-to-back singles. However, nothing come of it as Mahaffey sat down the next three batters to end the threat. Kyle Lindquist tossed a scoreless ninth, though he did walk a pair, to end the game.
Marietta moves on to face a familiar foe in the championship. The Pioneers knocked off Wheaton, which advanced out of the winner's bracket, last night in a 6-5 extra-inning affair. In 2006, the two teams met in the championship game with Marietta knocking off an upstart Wheaton program.
Wheaton ace Alex Palioca should be rested and ready to start today’s championship game. In the Lyons’ first game of the tournament on Friday, Palioca yielded just one run over seven innings in a 3-2 victory over Webster. Frank Holbrook followed that performance with a gem of his own two days later, throwing eight innings and giving up a single run. He also appears to be available if needed. The Lyons’s pitching staff as a whole has been solid, giving up just two earned runs per game in the tournament.
Wheaton hitters have combined for a .316 average in their four games this tournament. No single player has been lights-out for the Lyons, but their entire lineup has consistently provided offense throughout the tournament when it was needed. Leadoff man Hal Landers has been reliable in Appleton just as he has been all season. The senior outfielder has a hit in all four games.
Marietta is a ballclub that has faced elimination for three games in a row. After winning big in their first game of the tournament, 13-2 over Whitworth, the Pioneers lost on Sunday to St. Thomas. Marietta’s resolve in the games that followed gives a glimpse into a reason why the program has been so successful over the years. After returning to Fox Cities Stadium on Monday and beating Webster, Marietta then stayed alive by giving Wheaton their first loss in extra innings before knocking off St. Thomas today.