Catawba rallies to stay alive in Div. II baseball tournament

Craig Brooks put Catawba College ahead to stay with a two-out two-run single in the top of the sixth and pitched two scoreless innings to pick up his second save of the tournament as the nationally second-ranked Indians advanced to Saturday’s championship round. The Indians came from behind in a 9-6 victory over No. 8 Cal Poly Pomona in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II baseball national finals on Friday.

Catawba will face nationally top-ranked and tournament unbeaten Tampa on Saturday at 3 p.m. Tampa can claim its seventh national championship with a win. If Catawba wins, the two teams will play again Saturday evening to decide the championship.

Catawba (47-14) trailed 6-5 when leadoff batter Blake Houston opened the sixth inning with a single to right center and Dylan Richardson followed with a single to left. Houston (4-for-5) and Richardson (3-for-5) combined for seven of the Indians’ 15 hits. After a force at second put runners on the corners, Malachi Hanes drew a walk to load the bases.

Cal Poly Pomona pitcher J.J. Franklin (0-3) forced out a runner at the plate on a ball hit to the mound for the second out. Brooks then hit a sinking line drive to center to bring home two runs and put Catawba back on top 7-6.

Cal Poly Pomona (46-17) threatened in the bottom of the seventh as Mike Philp led off with a single and Ryan Webberly doubled down the left field line. Michael Elwell took over for Ryan McClintock on the mound and got the first out on a line out to third. Catawba right fielder Luke Setzer, who entered the game at the start of the inning as a defensive replacement, caught a fly ball for the second out and his throw to the plate led to a rundown between third and home and an inning-ending double play.

Cal Poly Pomona defeated Catawba 11-2 on Thursday to force Friday’s rematch.

Ryan McClintock (6-0) allowed only one hit in 11/3 innings and combined with Elwell and Brooks to hold the hot-hitting Broncos scoreless over the final four innings of the game.

Saturday’s championship round marks the second time in the past three years that the title game has come down to the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the nation. No. 1 Tampa defeated No. 2 Minnesota State in the championship game of the 2013 National Finals.