Appleton, Wis. - Winners of 12 in a row and 16 of the last 17 games, the Cal Lutheran baseball team will look to keep rolling as they square off against Washington & Jefferson (41-11) in a best-of-three NCAA Division III National Championship series beginning today, May 29 at 1:00 p.m. PT.
As the No. 3 seed in the College World Series, the Kingsmen won three straight games to claim the Pool B crown and earn a spot in the title game for the third time in school history. CLU opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over No. 6 Wheaton (Mass.) before defeating No. 7 North Central (Ill.) 14-5 and 10-8 on back-to-back days.
Currently ranked No. 15 by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and D3baseball.com, CLU will go up against a Presidents squad that is ranked No. 16 by D3baseball.com and No. 23 by the ABCA.
Washington & Jefferson, the No. 5 seed in the tournament, cruised through the Pool A bracket with three straight wins after topping No. 4 Concordia-Chicago 4-2 and No. 8 Roanoke 11-1 and 8-1.
The Presidents are led at the plate by right fielder Nick Vento, who is carrying a batting average of .437 with nine homeruns and 63 RBIs while shortstop Nick Gatins is hitting .419 with six homeruns and 40 RBIs. First basemen Mark Merlino is batting .395 and catcher Derek Helbing leads the team with 12 homeruns. As a team, W&J is hitting .351 with 52 homeruns in 52 games played.
On the mound, the Presidents may look to No. 4 starter Matt Heslin for game one. Heslin is 4-0 with a 3.50 ERA in 54 innings pitched. The ace of the staff is Riley Groves, who pitched on Saturday, and is 11-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 86.2 innings. Trevor Kerr (6-4, 3.18 ERA) and Bryce Schnatterly (9-0, 3.08 ERA) round out the Presidents starters.
Throughout the world series, the Kingsmen have been led at the plate by centerfielder Brad Fullerton who is 5-for-10 with five RBIs and four runs while Max Weinstein and Trey Saito also have five hits apiece. Saito is tied with Jimmy Jauregui for second on the team with four RBIs and Weinstein leads the way with five runs scored and a homerun.
On the mound, Miguel Salud has two saves in his three relief appearances over 4.1 innings, allowing just five hits and no runs while striking out six. Troy Frazier made his first appearance in the world series on Sunday, tossing 3.1 innings of relief after freshman Scott Roberts started the game. Marshall Pautsch threw eight innings in his opening start on Friday and Nate Wehner threw 7.1 innings on Saturday.
Game two of the National Championship series is set for Tuesday, May 30 at 9:00 a.m. PT with a third game, if necessary, to follow.
Tournament Central: 2017 NCAA Division III Baseball Championships
Watch: Cal Lutheran vs. Washington & Jefferson
Live Stats: Cal Lutheran vs. Washington & Jefferson
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