Story by Zachary Shore, North Greenville Athletics/CARY, N.C. – Top-seeded North Greenville got seven strong innings from Reece Fields and a memorable return from John Michael Faile to claim a 3-1 win over No. 8 West Chester at the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship Finals at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on Sunday night.
The win is the first-ever for the Crusaders on the sport’s biggest stage and the first Conference Carolinas victory at the tournament since 2011.
Faile, the 2021 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, missed the last month with an injury suffered in the first game of the 2022 Conference Carolinas Championship but you wouldn’t know it looking at the box score as he went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Jax Cash also collected a pair of hits and scored a run for NGU who outhit the Golden Rams 6-5.
On the mound, Fields earned his 10th win of the season as he allowed one unearned run on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts over seven innings and Brent Herlong earned his second save as he struck out four over the final two innings.
Faile got the scoring started in the second as he drove the third pitch he saw over the right-centerfield fence for the 1-0 lead. The Crusaders scored again in the fifth as Cash led off with a single, stole second and scored on a Cory Bivins single to left.
A single, passed ball and an error plated the lone Golden Rams run in the top of the sixth, but NGU added insurance in the bottom half. Faile singled, moved to third on a Cash single and scored on a two-out base hit from Gehrig Octavio for the final margin.
Both teams had three leadoff hits while NGU finished 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position while WCU went 0-for-6 in the same spot and had just one hit with runners on base.
The Crusaders advance to face No. 5 Angelo State on Tuesday, June 7 at 6 p.m. while West Chester will face Southern New Hampshire in an elimination game on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. In the other half of the bracket, No. 2 Point Loma will face No. 3 Southern Arkansas on Monday at 6 p.m. while No. 6 Rollins and No. 7 Illinois-Springfield will square off in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m.