College of St. Joseph’s baseball team is back-to-back USCAA national champions after defeating Apprentice School 6-1 in the title game on May 19.
The Fighting Saints entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed and began their title defense with a 2-0 win over Marygrove College on May 15 and a 3-2 win over Penn State DuBois, May 16. Both wins advanced the Saints to the winners bracket final against Apprentice, where they fell 6-3 on May 17.
CSJ proved why they were the defending national champions in the elimination bracket, defeating Cleary University in a 5-0 shutout to again face off against the undefeated Apprentice School for the national title. The Saints needed to earn two wins against Apprentice, the 2015 national champions, to capture their second straight title in the double elimination tournament.
In the first game of the series, the Saints defeated Apprentice behind the stellar play of MVP Nick Rodriguez, who was four for six at the plate with two doubles. In the second game, CSJ got on the board first on one of the most memorable plays in Small College World Series history.
Rodriguez led off the game with a single to left center and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Jared Morello. Tyler Kunzmann followed it up with a single to center, but it wasn’t enough to score Rodriguez, who had to wait to see if the ball would drop. With two outs, Nick Powers struck out swinging on a curve ball in the dirt. The ball was considered live and as the Apprentice School defense started walking off the field, Powers hustled to first and Rodriguez slipped behind Apprentice’s Cody Hendrickson, who was arguing that he caught the ball.
The game made it to the second of the bottom before thunder and lightning caused the game to be suspended until Friday morning. Nick Powers, who started Thursday’s contest, went back on the hill to have a powerhouse performance for the Saints.
CSJ broke open the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring four runs on three hits. Derek Edge started the rally with a single to right field. John Loschiavo followed with a double to right field, just before Rodriguez was hit in the shoulder to load the bases. Morello singled to left field to drive in two runs. After Kunzmann struck out, Morello and Rodriguez stole third and second, respectively, which allowed an intentional walk to Brian Quezada. Apprentice’s pitcher Steven Hux walked Powers to drive in the third run of the inning. Then, Tommy Grant hit a fielder’s choice RBI to score Morello, making the score 5-0 in favor of the Saints.
Apprentice put up their first and only run in the top of the sixth inning. The Saints got the run back in the bottom of that inning with a run from Derek Edge.
The Saints finish the season with a 28-22 overall record.
Nick Powers, Nicholas Burch, and Jared Morello were named to the All-Tournament Team. Senior Nick Rodriguez was named Tournament MVP for the second consecutive year.
Several players were also named All-Americans and All-Academics by the USCAA, including Burch (First Team All-American), Morello and Jovan Henriquez (Second Team All-American), Petar Rumora, Jose Ramos, Tommy Grant, and Ben Brown (All-Academic).
Photo courtesy of Connie Cummings
The College of St. Joseph baseball team poses after its recent victory.