MOOSIC – Coming off a dramatic victory on Thursday in the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional, Misericordia carried that momentum Friday morning to stave off elimination for one more game.
The Cougars got a strong pitching performance from senior Will Minderjahn, who tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout, leading Misericordia to a 6-0 win over Alvernia in an elimination game and into Friday night’s game.
In the night tilt, Misericordia took advantage of two unearned runs in the seventh inning to eliminate Ramapo 2-1. The Cougars will now play a semifinal against Keystone today at noon, with the winner advancing to the championship round to face Kean.
In the early game, Minderjahn, a left-hander, became the first pitcher to keep the Crusaders off the scoreboard in a game this season. He did so with a changeup that had a nice drop and only needed to strike out two. He kept batters from getting hard hits on the pitches he threw. He was very efficient with his 118 pitches, making Alvernia swing early by throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 34 hitters he faced.
“It’s very important to get ahead because then you can use your offspeed and really get guys off-balance with it,” Minderjahn said.
He also got help from his defense. In the top of the third with a runner on second and one out, Misericordia shortstop Ryan Cacchioli made a backwards leaping catch on a humpback line drive to possibly save a run.
After a leadoff walk in the third, Minderjahn got in a groove facing the minimum number of batters until two were out in the sixth.
“I didn’t even see him catch the ball. I just saw it blooping into the outfield,” Minderjahn said. “That’s kind of what’s been happening to us all tournament. We’ve had all these blooper hits. I was just thinking ‘oh no not again.’ And he came up with an amazing catch.”
The third-seeded Cougars (37-10) got to Alvernia starter Aaron Benusis for four runs in the bottom of the first, sending eight men to the plate. Kenny Durling got the first run home with an RBI-single and Julian Faria, who transferred from Alvernia prior to the season, followed with a two-run single. A Joe Tagliarni sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
It wasn’t just the timely hitting by the Cougars that helped them score two more in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead. They were running all over 6-foot-7 pitcher, who had trouble holding runners. Misericordia stole nine bases in the game, including eight against Benusis, and including one steal of home. Cacchiolo and leadoff hitter Kyle Lindsay each stole two bags.
“It’s part of our gameplan to run a lot and we like to put pressure on teams, but certainly he made it a little easier on us being a big guy,” Cougars head coach Pete Egbert said. “We knew he was going to be slow to the plate, so we took advantage of that and we ran a lot and that helped us out. Our guys did a good job and good jumps.”
The first time Minderjahn (6-0) got in serious trouble was the top of the seventh after he gave up a leadoff single to Chris Gehris followed immediately by a double to Cody Youker. But the lefty got a shallow fly out to right followed by a strikeout and a popout to end the threat.
“Take a second, take a breath and I don’t want them to score, so just pound the zone,” Minderjahn said in reply to how he got out of the pickle. “Just pound the zone and let my defense do the work.”
Misericordia 2, Ramapo 1
Pete Doggett moved to 5-0 this season, striking out seven, walking two and allowing four hits and an unearned run for the Cougars.
Ramapo took adavantage of two errors in the third inning to get the game’s first run.
Misericordia turned errors on consecutive balls put into play in the seventh. Mike Comerford walked to lead off the inning and came around to score on the two errors. Dylan Mazzo followed with a two-out single to left-center, driving in Andrew Tressa from second base.