Drury holds off Maryville 4-3, move into Sunday's GLVC championship game
Courtesy of Drury Athletic Department
Evansville, Ind. -- Top seed Drury built an early four-run lead behind the stellar pitching of sophomore Austin Faulconer and held off a late Maryville surge to beat the No. 8 seed Saints 4-3 Saturday night and move into the title game of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship tourney at Bosse Field.
The nationally 12th-ranked Panthers (39-14) will play sixth-seeded Bellarmine (28-21) for the title at 11 a.m. at Bosse Field in a one-game, winner-take-all matchup. Bellarmine defeated No. 2 seed Lewis 6-3 Saturday evening to move into the finals opposite the Panthers. Drury split a double-header with the Knights in Springfield on March 16, winning 2-1 in 12 innings and falling 4-2, before the scheduled second day twinbill was rained out.
Sunday's winners will receive the GLVC's automatic bid into the NCAA-II tournament. The NCAA-II Midwest Regional pairings, with a six-team field, will be revealed Sunday night at 9 p.m. on www.ncaa.com.
Coach Scott Nasby's Panthers appeared as if they were going to coast into the title game behind the strong mound effort of Faulconer (8-1), who allowed just two hits and an unearned run in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Drury scored two in the first - on a two-out, two-run double from GLVC Freshman of the Year Payton Reed - and scratched across single runs in the third (a Reed RBI single) and fifth (John Neill RBI double) to take a 4-0 lead.
"Austin battled all game long and he was able to mix it in the zone to keep them off balance," Nasby said. "Although it wasn't pretty, mainly due to our lack of defense, a win is a win and we are where we want to be on Sunday."
But the Saints, taking advantage of five DU errors in the contest, plated one in the seventh, and threatened for more until senior lefty Evan Kuo worked himself out of a jam with a big, bases-loaded strikeout of Maryville's Eric Keling.
More jams were ahead.
Maryville scored twice in the eighth to cut it to 4-3 on Corey Gall's RBI double and one of two Laurent Zenoni wild pitches in the frame before Zenoni struck out Kaleb DePew with two on to end the inning.
The Saints had one more threat left in them in the ninth, when a walk, a passed ball and a wild pitch left Maryville with the tying run at third, and after another walk, the winning run at first with two out. But Zenoni induced a groundout by pinch-hitter Andrew Naegeli, allowing the Panthers to breathe once again and "Z" to collect his seventh save of the year, school-record 25th of his career and second of the tourney as DU moved to 3-0 in the post-season event.
Maryville finished 22-24, with both losses by the scrappy Saints coming to the Panthers.
"We escaped a very good Maryville team," Nasby said. "Although their final record doesn't show it, we tip our cap to Maryville as they played us tough in every game this year and put pressure on us late in games. I am glad we will not have to play them again this year. Seth and the rest of the coaching staff at Maryville has done a tremendous job this year."
Reed was 2-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the DU offense, while Alex Larkin also had a pair of hits as the Panthers managed eight in the contest. Reed is 5-for-11 with four runs scored and six RBIs in the tourney's three games.
"Payton has stepped up over the course of the year and racked up lots of two-out RBIs," Nasby said. "We owe a lot of our success to this team's ability to hit with two outs and two strikes."
Now, the Panthers will gun for their second GLVC title - and first since the inaugural DU Baseball team of 2007 shocked the world and won the championship as the No. 8 seed - when they take on the Knights on Sunday.
Drury already has set a single-season school record for victories, but No. 40 would not only be a milestone, but one that would mean another GLVC championship and second NCAA-II tourney berth.
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