Story by Zachary Shore/North Greenville Athletics:
Top-seeded and nationally top-ranked North Greenville claimed its first NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship with a 5-3 win over No. 2 seed Point Loma at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on Friday night.
The Crusaders went 4-0 in Cary in their first-ever trip to the national championship and are the second Conference Carolinas baseball team to win the title, joining Mount Olive who accomplished the feat in 2008. It’s the first national championship in any sport since Limestone won the 2017 NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse National Championship.
The win was also a milestone for eighth-year head coach Landon Powell as he captured his 300th career win.
The trio of Reece Fields, who was named the 2022 NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship Most Valuable Player, Nate Roof and Tristen Hudson were dominant on the mound as they tallied 16 strikeouts of the Sea Lions. Fields, the ace for the Crusaders this season, improved to 11-2 as he allowed one run on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts over five innings. Roof completed three scoreless innings with two hits, one walk and six strikeouts while Hudson allowed two runs on two hits with two strikeouts in the ninth.
North Greenville was outhit in the contest, 10-8, but got big hits when they needed them, led by Jax Cash who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI. All-tournament team third basemen Pat Monteith scored two runs despite not having a hit while five other Crusaders had at least one hit and three others scored a run.
North Greenville scored first in the bottom of the second as Monteith reached on a two-base error, moved to third on a Josh Senter flyout and scored on a Jordan Holladay groundout. It was more small ball in the third as Ethan Stringer drew a one-out walk, moved to third on a John Michael Faile (all-tournament team designated hitter) single and scored on a Marek Chlup ground out for the 2-0 advantage.
A leadoff home run by Otto Kemp got Point Loma on the board in the fifth and the score remained 2-1 until the seventh when the Crusaders manufactured a pair of runs on two hits. Bivins and Gehrig Octavio, the all-tournament team second basemen, led off with back-to-back base hits and moved up 90-feet on a Stringer sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch plated Bivins and a Faile sacrifice fly brought home Octavio for a pair of insurance runs which proved pivotal in the win.
In the eighth, Monteith led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a Cash base hit for the final NGU run. The Sea Lions made things interesting in the ninth as Kemp singled and scored on a Baxter Halligan home run to right field, however, Hudson included a ground out and registered the 16th PLU strikeout of the contest to slam the door and secure the title.
Point Loma outhit North Greenville .278 to .267 in the contest, but were 2-for-16 (.125) with runners on and 1-for-12 (.083) with runners in scoring position while the Crusaders were 4-for-17 (.235) with runners on and 2-for-10 (.200) with runners in scoring position. The Crusaders finished the contest with seven runners left on base with the Sea Lions stranded 11.
North Greenville All-Tournament Team Honorees
MVP: Reece Fields
2B: Gehrig Octavio
3B: Pat Monteith
DH: John Michael Faile
P: Reece Fields