Top-Seeded Southeastern Weathers Third-Seeded Rio Grande, One Win Away from World Series Berth
MACON, Ga.- The Southeastern University baseball team is one win away from a return trip to Lewiston, Idaho for the NAIA World Series. The top-seeded Fire clinched a spot in the championship game of the Macon Bracket in the NAIA Opening Round with a 7-2 victory over the third-seeded University of Rio Grande Red Storm. SEU also notched its third-straight 50-win season with the result.
For just the second time in their last five contests, the Fire scored the opening run of the contest. After leading off the game with an infield single, stealing second, and advancing to third on a single by Dominic Anagnos, senior outfielder Manuel Mesa was able to cross the plate despite SEU grounding into a double play.
The Red Storm responded in the bottom of the first with their lone two runs of the contest on three hits and an error to take a 2-1 lead over the Fire.
Senior right-handed starting pitcher Keven Long battled through a high pitch count early to find his rhythm on the mound. With 66 pitches through his first three frames tossed, the Dixon, Ill. native executed a clutch nine-pitch one-two-three inning in the bottom of the fourth to build momentum for the Fire as they went to the plate in the top of the fifth.
“My main adjustment was to attack the zone and get ahead. I needed to attack and see what they had, and if they hit it, trust that I have a good defense behind me to back me up,” commented Long.
The Fire capitalized on Long’s momentum in the top of the fifth, plating three runs on four hits and an error to take a 4-2 lead over the Red Storm.
An RBI-single by Mesa scored Adam De La Cruz to get things started. Ivan Nunez recorded an RBI-single of his own later in the frame to score Dan Valerio. Finally, Mesa came home on a misplayed grounder by URG to cap off the momentous frame.
Long continued to build steam on the mound for SEU through the middle-innings, retiring eight straight through the bottom of the fifth through the bottom of the seventh.
“For us, it all started with Keven on the mound. He found a way to go out there without his best stuff and compete, keep grinding and putting zeroes up, and gave us a chance to win,” shared head coach Adrian Dinkel.
After conceding a lead-off walk in the top of the eighth, Long exited the game with a final line of seven innings pitched, four hits allowed, two earned runs, four walks, and six strikeouts.
SEU tacked on three insurance runs in the top of the ninth, two of which were driven in via a pinch-hit RBI-double by Valerio.
Senior right-handed closer Heibert Romero locked down the Red Storm in relief, tossing two perfect innings to earn his second save of the tournament.
Ivan Nunez finished the game 3-5 at the plate with two RBIs. Willie Estrada was 3-4 in the nine hole. Manuel Mesa was 2-5 with three runs scored.
Southeastern awaits to find out who their opponent will be between the three remaining teams in the field (Middle Georgia State, British Columbia, Rio Grande) in the championship game tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.