Story by Zachary Shore:
Top seed North Greenville is going to play for its first NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship after an 8-5 win over No. 8 seed West Chester on Thursday night at the USA Baseball National Training Complex put the Crusaders in the championship final.
North Greenville is just the second Conference Carolinas program to play for a title, joining Mount Olive who won the title in 2008. The Crusaders are also looking for the first national championship for the conference since Limestone did so in men’s lacrosse in 2017.
The Crusaders will face off against either No. 2 Point Loma or No. 6 Rollins on Friday, June 10 at 7 p.m. Point Loma and Rollins will play in their bracket championship at noon on Friday with the winner needing two wins over North Greenville to claim the title.
In tonight’s contest, both teams threatened in the opening three frames, but it was NGU that struck first in the top of the third. With two outs, Ethan Stringer and Marek Chlup walked and John Michael Faile singled to load the bases for Pat Monteith who drove the first pitch he saw over the centerfield fence for a grand slam and a 4-0 lead.
After the Golden Rams went down in order, the Crusaders added on in the fourth. Jordan Holladay and Jax Cash started the inning with back-to-back walks, Cory Bivins advanced them 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt and Gerhig Octavio brought in Holladay with a groundout to the right side. Stringer then singled home Cash for the 6-0 lead and Chlup singled in Stringer to add to the margin. A leadoff home run by Mike Ferrara in the bottom of the inning put West Chester on the board.
Holladay and Octavio were at it again in the fifth as the former doubled to lead of the inning and his pinch runner, Zach Zarra, moved to third on a Cash base hit and scored on an Octavio sacrifice fly to push the lead back to seven, 8-1. Three singles and a two-out, two-run double by the Golden Rams cut the margin to four, 8-4, after five.
A hit-by-pitch, a walk and an error plated the final West Chester run in the eighth as the Crusaders secured their spot in the championship final.
Cash led the eight-hit attack with a 2-for-4 day at the plate and was one of seven different Crusaders to score a run. Monteith finished 1-for-3 with four RBIs and two walks while Octavio drove in two and Stringer scored twice.
Seth Chestnut got the start and took a no-decision as he allowed one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts over four innings before giving way to Thomas Skipper (3-1) who earned the win with 2.1 innings of relief. Skipper allowed three runs on four hits with two strikeouts before giving way to Brent Herlong who allowed one unearned run, one walk and one strikeout in 2.2 hitless innings of work.
Ferrara led the West Chester offense, which tallied eight hits, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored while the Golden Rams used four pitchers in the contest.