A historic baseball season ended for the Misericordia Cougars on Sunday.
Their hunger didn’t.
“It’s a huge moment in program history for us,” Misericordia sophomore third baseman Tyler Holzapfel said. “The Cougs can ball, so it’s a new standard for us and we just want to get back here next year. And we’re already getting ready for that.”
That was moments after a gritty Misericordia team battled back in the middle innings to tie the game, before falling 14-6 to top-seeded Randolph-Macon in the NCAA Division III College World Series at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The Cougars finished their season with a 37-15 record, with the second-most wins in program history, and became the first Cougars squad to reach the Division III College World Series.
They also became just the second team in Middle Atlantic Conference history to earn a win at the College World Series, following Upsala College in 1980.
Misericordia rallied back from deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 to tie the game in the fourth inning, but couldn’t climb back into the game after the Yellow Jackets took an eight-run lead in the sixth.
“I’m proud of our guys, we gave them all that they could handle for the first five innings,” Cougars coach Pete Egbert said. “We just couldn’t miss a barrel in the sixth and they pulled away. But we competed to the last out so I’m real proud of our guys.”
Steve Weisensee and Holzapfel each had two hits and an RBI and Sean Boylan, a freshman from Easton High School, drove in a pair of runs to lead the offense.
Elliot Forde and relief pitcher Kyle Melahn each pitched 2.2 innings and Dan Zurowski threw 1.2 innings with two strikeouts. Kyle Rogalski and Tom Jacob closed out the game with an inning apiece.
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on a two-run home run by Cole Migliorini and an RBI single from Reece Yeargain.
After Forde got through the second inning with help from a double play, the Cougars cut into their deficit in the bottom of the inning.
Weisensee led off with a double and Sean Lyons was hit by a pitch. Conor Smith sacrificed them both over and Boylan followed with a two-run single up the middle.
Randolph-Macon answered back with two runs in the third, but Lyons helped limit the damage with a diving catch in left field off the bat of Yeargain.
Misericordia got a run back in the home half of the third, as Holzapfel doubled and came around to score on a single by Weisensee. Holzapfel scored around a strong throw from right field by diving head-first to the outside of the plate and slapping his hand on the corner to pull the Cougars within 5-3.
After Melahn worked a perfect fourth inning, the Cougars took advantage of some mistakes in the bottom half.
Santo Guinta and Boylan each reached on an error with one out. Kenny Jarema followed by hitting a chopper to third base, but the ball was muffed and Randolph-Macon was only able to get an out at third. With Abate up, a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third. And Abate took immediate advantage with a swinging bunt up the third-base line to score Misericordia’s fourth run.
After Abate stole second, Holzapfel slapped a single the other way to tie the game at 5-5, but Abate was cut down at the plate by the left fielder while attempting to give the Cougars their first lead.
Melahn worked another scoreless inning in the fifth, with the help of a heads-up play by Boylan.
With a runner on first, Yeargain hit a grounder to shortstop, where Boylan had difficulty getting a grip on the ball. But the rookie shortstop threw back to second base to catch that runner, who had rounded the bag a little too hard.
However, the Yellow Jackets were able to take an insurmountable lead in the sixth.
Ryan Duphorn hit a go-ahead RBI single and after the Yellow Jackets loaded the bases, Migliorini hit a double to left-center field to drive in two more. After re-loading the bases, a walk, single and triple followed to put Randolph-Macon up 13-5 in the sixth.
Cole Bixler knocked in a run in the seventh for Misericordia and Randolph-Macon added a run in the eighth to set the final score.
“Not a lot of people expected us to be here, even in the regionals,” Melahn said. “I don’t think a lot of people saw us getting out of that, especially with some of the teams that were there. A I hope that we proved some people wrong and showed them something this year, and I’m really proud of our team for that.”
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