APPLETON, Wis. — The Gorloks couldn’t make it happen again. Another come-from-behind win wasn’t in the cards.
Webster University’s baseball team dropped a 12-7 decision on Monday, May 28 to the Marietta College (Ohio) Pioneers at Fox Cities Stadium. Marietta, the defending Division III national champion and No. 1-ranked team in the country, advanced as Webster was eliminated from its first-ever College World Series.
After Marietta had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Webster scored seven runs in the top of the fourth to take a 7-2 lead. But the Pioneers came right back in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six runs of their own and seizing momentum from the Gorloks.
“I knew they were coming back,” Webster coach Bill Kurich said. “I knew that was not it. You are facing arguably the best team in the country with the wind blowing out at 30 MPH. We continued to give them free bases. For it to happen that fast was tough. They took our punch and punched us right back. It’s what good teams do. It’s a funny game.”
Sophomore shortstop Taylor Stoulp extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a one-out single in the top of the first, but the Gorloks couldn’t score.
The Webster attack went full force in the top of the fourth. Stoulp led off the inning with a triple to begin the hit parade. Webster used seven hits, an error by Marietta and a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded to bring home seven runs in the frame.
After Stoulp’s triple, junior right fielder Alex Kazmierski reached on an error by Marietta third baseman Bryan Gregorich. Stoulp scored as Kazmierski advanced to second. Webster trailed 2-1 at that point.
Junior designated hitter Mike Rainbolt singled to bring in Kazmierski, and senior catcher Dustin List followed with an RBI base hit to center field to make it 3-2 Webster. Sophomore second baseman Kevin Kojs singled to load up the bases. The hit was Kojs’ ninth in his last nine at-bats, a College World Series record.
Marietta pulled its starter, junior Mike Mulvey, with the bases loaded and one out. The Pioneers brought in senior Kyle Lindquist to pitch to freshman left fielder Charlie Gandolfi. Gandolfi answered with a two-RBI single to left field to give the Gorloks a 5-2 advantage.
Stoulp came to the plate once again in the inning as Webster batted around. Stoulp notched his third hit of the game, an RBI single, to make it 6-2 Webster. With Gandolfi and Stoulp on, senior first baseman Tom Henke walked to load the bases.
Kazmierski was glanced by a pitch to bring in Webster’s seventh run of the inning. Kazmierski recorded two RBIs that inning without a getting a hit.
But Webster’s fortunes quickly reversed.
Webster junior starting pitcher Cody Hafeli plunked the Pioneers’ leadoff batter in the bottom of the fourth. It was Hafeli’s second hit batsman of the afternoon, to go along with three walks. Kurich had seen enough and went to the bullpen. Junior Steven Dooley trotted onto the mound as a frustrated Hafeli slammed his hat and glove in the dugout.
“We were obviously on some really high emotions (after the top of the fourth),” said senior catcher Matt Moore, who started the game on the bench. “As soon as coach took Hafeli out of the game, I felt there was a shift in momentum — a shift in the way things were. I think people didn’t agree with the decision. I could see the entire dugout completely changed the way they were playing. Everybody was coming down. I did everything I could to try to get everybody up, but it was tough.”
Kurich said he thought Dooley gave Webster a better chance against the Pioneers’ potent attack.
“(Marietta’s) a good hitting team,” Kurich said. “(Dooley’s) got an outstanding changeup, and Cody (Hafeli) was struggling with his command. With the day off, Steven was fresh. (Marietta) did their job; they hit him.”
Dooley walked the first batter he faced and surrendered a single to load the bases with none out. Marietta designated hitter Josh Ungerbuehler lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to cut Webster’s lead to 7-3. Shortstop Tim Saunders used another sacrifice fly to make it 7-4. With two outs and only one on, Webster had a chance to get out of a bases-loaded jam only giving up those two runs.
Marietta’s center fielder Aaron Hopper had other plans, as he laced an RBI double to left field. Webster’s lead was still in tact, but shrinking with each batter. After a half-hour lightning delay, hit after hit kept coming and Webster’s lead disappeared. It was 8-7 after four innings. Hafeli’s line was three innings pitched, three runs and three hits.
Marietta added two more runs against Dooley in the sixth inning to make it 10-7 Pioneers.
A scary moment for the Gorloks came in the bottom of the eighth. Junior center fielder Cody Stevenson, who was 5 for 32 in the Central Regional and World Series and 0 for 5 today, collided with the outfield wall on an inside-the-park home run by Pioneers’ left fielder Mitch Geers. Stevenson remained on the ground for about 10 minutes.
“They thought it was just a neck stinger,” Kurich said. “He could move all his hands and feet and limbs.”
As a precaution, Stevenson was placed onto a stretcher and carted off the field to a nearby hospital for tests. Gandolfi moved to center field and freshman Devin Johnson took Gandolfi’s spot in left field.
“It certainly put some things in perspective a little bit,” Kurich said of Stevenson’s injury. “We got quiet in the dugout. The game wasn’t over. We had to keep playing.”
After Stevenson’s injury, the next two batters reached for Marietta, and Kurich once again dipped into his bullpen. Senior David Mueller came in with two on, and Marietta pushed across two more runs to take a five-run lead, a luxury Webster enjoyed at one point in this game.
Stoulp recorded his fourth hit of the day with a lead0ff single in the top of the ninth to give the Gorloks life. But Henke flied out to center field and Kazmierski struck out swinging to put Webster’s season on Rainbolt’s bat. Rainbolt grounded out to the pitcher, which ended the Gorloks’ record-setting season.
Even without a World Series ring and national championship, Kurich said the season was one to remember.
“The wins and losses go away,” Kurich said. “The thing that upsets me is I won’t get to see Tom Henke hit anymore, or David Mueller pitch, or (senior pitcher) Mike Gebhardt driving me crazy in the dugout, or (senior) Dustin List and Matt Moore catch and be the dirtiest guys on the field. Those things are special.
“It’s the guys, the relationships, the hard work, the guys playing hard. That’s what I’ll miss.”
Mueller, who set numerous career pitching records during his three years at Webster, called the Gorloks’ run to the World Series “a dream come true.”
“It was everything you could ask for, except to walk out a winner and win your last game,” Mueller said. “Personally, I had a great season. Our team set the record for wins (36), we won the first game of the College World Series (in program history). For me and this senior class, it’s the way you want to go out.”
Moore, one of five seniors on the team, said he enjoyed the whole season and the experience of making it to the program’s first College World Series.
“I go out and I have a rough season — probably one of the roughest hitting seasons of my life,” Moore said. “Lots of kids were struggling here and there (early) — just to be able to fight so hard to the very last pitch, it’s unbelievable. These guys are my best friends, and I’ll remember it forever, man.
“It’s really something special to me.“
— Josh Sellmeyer contributed to this report.
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