Small Ball

CARY, N.C.—I headed to the Team USA Baseball Training Complex on Saturday afternoon for the Division II College World Series game between the Emporia State Hornets (46-13) and the Grand Valley State Lakers (45-14-1).

I had spent a great deal of time at the ACC tournament this week. So, I was struck by the atmosphere most of all. The venue was much smaller, with fewer fans. The announcer quickly asked that all foul balls be "returned to the first base dugout." Emporia State’s jerseys simply read E-State.

The game itself was a pitcher’s duel of contrasting styles. The Lakers’ starter, lefty Andre Benjamin, allowed just two runs in seven innings of work. Benjamin retired 10 of the first 13 E-State hitters in the air.

In contrast Hornets starter Colby Killian kept the ball on the ground.  Killian, a 27th-round draft choice of the Royals in 2007, featured a solid fastball around 87 mph that ran hard in to righties and away from lefties. That fastball, along with a decent changeup, kept hitters off balance. Killian allowed just three hits and no runs in six innings to earn the win.

Along with very strong starting pitching, both teams featured excellent defense. They managed to make routine play after routine play while mixing in a few spectacular plays. The defense was highlighted by a diving play from Emporia second baseman Jacob White. On a hard-hit ball up the middle, he dove and flipped the ball as he rolled over, and shortstop Andy Cotton, a one-time Nebraska Cornhusker, went on to complete a 4-6-3 double play.

White hit .397 on the season, but he had gotten just 58 at-bats coming into the game. He had yet to homer in those at-bats. However, in the top of the fifth with the game still scoreless, he homered to left off Benjamin to give the Hornets all the offense they would need as they moved into the winners’ bracket with a 3-0 victory.