Joe Hoffmann, Media Relationship Manager
CARY, N.C. – In a season defined by their offensive prowess, Mules Baseball’s final act came down to a pitcher’s duel. The Mules and No. 1 seed Colorado Mesa squared off for the third time in Cary at the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship, and while Ben Kelsch threw a gem in his final career start, the bats fell silent as the Mules dropped the national semifinal game 1-0 to the Mavericks. The season ends with the Mules record at 46-16 and based on their 2-3 record at the National Championship, that’s good enough to finish as the third place team.
• Colorado Mesa was primed to take the lead in the second. They loaded with nobody out, but Mules starter Ben Kelschwas able to escape the jam. He got a strikeout for out number one and induced a ground ball for a double play to end the inning.
• An inning later, it was the Mules turn. They put runners on the corners to start the frame with leadoff double from Zak Whalin and an infield single from Micah Evans.
• UCM couldn’t take advantage though as a pop up and a double play ended the inning. Video replay actually overturned the safe call at first base which would have scored Whalin with the games first run.
• Neither team saw many opportunities in the middle innings. Josh Schumacher turned in a terrific play in left in the fourth. A hard hit single went off the fence in left, but Schumacher played the carom perfectly and held Caleb Farmer to just a single. One batter later, Kelsch got another double play ball and a ground out to third to end the inning.
• Colorado Mesa was the first to score, breaking through in the seventh. Back-to-back hits to start the inning put runners on the corners with nobody out. A sacrifice fly plated the run for the Mavericks.
• The Mules were bit by replay once again in the seventh. Josh Schumacher led off with a single and after being called safe on a stolen base, replay overturned the call and the Mules went down 1-2-3.
• UCM had another chance in the eighth. Micah Evans drew a one out walk and Mason Janvrin followed with a single to left. But a line out and a pop out ended the inning.
• In their final turn at bat, Harrison Schnurbusch led off the ninth with a single. He was stranded at first as the final three batters were retired.
Mules Stat Leaders
• Ben Kelsch gave all he had throwing seven innings and allowing just one run on six hits with three strikeouts.
• Josh Schumacher had two of the Mules seven hits.
• Zak Whalin was 1-3 with a double.
• Micah Evans reached base twice with a hit and a walk.
• Mason Janvrin, Cole Taylor and Harrison Schnurbusch each picked up a single.
• Evan Rathburn threw two scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one hit with two strikeouts.
For the Mavericks
• Will Dixon, the team’s All-American closer made his first start of the season and went the distance. He threw 103 pitches in nine innings giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
• Spencer Bramwell had two hits and scored the game’s only run.
• Caleb Farmer was 2-4.
• Trevin Reynolds had the only RBI on a sacrifice fly.
News and Notes
• Going to a fifth game at the NCAA National Championship is the deepest the Mules have advanced since 2004.
• Zak Whalin picked up career hit number 100 with a double in the third.
• Kelsch finishes his career having thrown 221.2 innings, that puts him ninth all-time in Mules history.
• This was the first time UCM had been shutout in 104 games dating back to March 2, 2018 at Washburn.
• Playing on June 6 was the deepest into the calendar UCM had ever played.
• This is the Mules fifth third-place finish at the NCAA Championship in team history.
• The Mules led Divison II with 62 double plays this season, just two shy of the team record.
• Mason Janvrin finishes the season with 114 hits and Erik Webb 100. The first time two teammates have ever had 100 hits in team history.
“First and foremost I want to congratulate Colorado Mesa,” Crookes said. “It was a great game. Coach Hanks has a great team and we wish them the best moving forward. Second, I’m incredibly proud of my group. I’m proud of Ben [Kelsch] and his toughness and the defense and the way we played and represented our university here. Certainly it hurts to fall a run short in a game where we felt like we swung it okay. We just couldn’t get a big hit when we needed a big hit.
“We seemed to be able to do it all week. It didn’t happen for us today and that’s tough. That’s the game. That’s what it gives you. That’s the lessons it teaches you. That’s what prepares these guys for life moving forward. You can do everything right and put yourself in all the right positions and not always get what you want. Now we’ll have a choice to make and they’ll have a choice to make in terms of how they want to respond to that. I’m incredibly proud of them to a man up and down everybody that was in our dugout and helped get us to where we were at.
“There’s some things I’ll have to look back at, myself, personally. I feel like I could have put us in a better position to scratch across a run or two. We had a couple of opportunities. Not very many, no question, but we had a couple and that’s on me to find a way to get those runs to score.”