116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – To win a national championship, you call on guys sometimes to do things they haven’t done all season.
Salisbury University baseball coach Troy Brohawn did that Monday afternoon, and the guys he called on came up big time.
Pitchers Jackson Balzan and Clayton Dwyer combined to give up just six hits and a run as the Sea Gulls beat St. Thomas (Minn.), 6-1, in the first game of their best-of-three championship series in the NCAA Division III World Series at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Balzan threw a nine-inning complete game for Salisbury in its tournament-opening win Friday, so he was coming back on just two days rest. Dwyer started the Maryland school’s second game Saturday, which gave him all of one day of rest.
“Both sides are probably on fumes with their pitching. I know we are,” Brohawn said. “We had Jackson come back on short-day’s rest, we had Clayton come back on short-day’s rest combined today. We got exactly what we hoped to get out of them. They showed a lot of guts, a lot of poise, a lot of determination. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Balzan gave up three singles to start the game, but St. Thomas (37-8) got only one run out of that early flurry. The sophomore left-hander gave up just two hits after that, tagging in Dwyer with a runner on and none out in the fifth.
The duo has combined to go 19-0 with two saves for Salisbury (33-4).
“I felt good,” Balzan said. “I’m still a little sore arm wise. I knew I wasn’t going to have my best stuff, but my focus for today was just going out there and competing, giving the team everything I had. I think I did just that.”
Catcher Jacob Ference’s two-run home run just onto the short porch in left field in the bottom of the second put Salisbury on top for good. The Sea Gulls got a three-spot in the fifth to put the game away.
A bad-hop, two-out, two-run hit by Jake Wedell over the first baseman’s head scored the first two runs, with St. Thomas right fielder Jake Porter (who was 2-for-2) having to come out of the game after injuring himself while chasing the gift double.
Up to that point, St. Thomas starting pitcher Duke Coburn had been matching Balzan pitch for pitch.
“That’s something that I can’t control,” Coburn said. “It’s just the way baseball goes sometimes. Sometimes you don’t get the hops.”
The teams play again Tuesday morning at 11. If Salisbury wins, it will clinch its first national title.
If St. Thomas wins, the teams will play a winner-take-all affair Tuesday afternoon.
“Certainly not how you want to open up the World Series,” said St. Thomas Coach Chris Olean. “It wasn’t the worst we could play. Either way, you don’t want to be down a game in a three-game set. But, you know, we’re not in a horrible place.
“We have some pitching left. We’ve been here before. I think guys are going to remain upbeat. We’ll come back here tomorrow ready to compete.”