TEMPE, ARIZONA – For a second straight night, the Monmouth University baseball team had the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning, but fell on Saturday to the University of Nebraska, 6-5, in the elimination game of the NCAA Tempe Regional at Packard Stadium.
Rick Niederhaus (Whitebouse Station, N.J./Hunterdon Central) collected the Hawks’ first hit of the game in the top of the fourth, as the sophomore laced a one-out single up the middle off Nebraska starter Tony Watson.
The Cornhuskers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth when designated hitter Jeff Tezak delivered a one-out triple into the rightfield corner. An RBI groundout by Bryce Nimmo, plated Tezak for the go-ahead run.
Kyle Higgins (Green Brook, N.J./Watchung Hills) ignited a Monmouth rally in the top of the sixth, leading off the frame with a single. After Kyle Messineo (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove) drew a walk, Andy Meyers (Stratford, N.J./Sterling) delivered an RBI single to centerfield, plating Higgins and knotting the score. Niederhuas followed with a three-run home run over the left centerfield fence to give the Hawks a 4-1 lead.
Chris Collazo’s (Wall, N.J./Wall) one-out single knocked Cornhusker ace, Watson out of the game after 5.1 innings.
Nimmo singled to the hole at short to start the bottom of the seventh, and stole second as pinch-hitter Nick Sullivan struck out. Shortstop Jake Mort then singled on a line drive which fell just in front of a diving Braun in left to plate Nimmo, pulling the Huskers within 4-2.
With two runners on and one out, Buch handed the ball to classmate Brett Brach (Freehold, N.J./Freehold Township). Brach got Craig Corriston to fly out to deep center, but Andrew Brown followed with an RBI single through the left side, trimming the lead to 4-3. Fellow freshman Kyle Breese (Monmouth Junction, N.J./South Brunswick) then surrendered a high-chopping two-run double over Meyers’ head to Jake Opitz on an 0-2 pitch, as UN reclaimed a one-run lead.
Andy Gerch followed with a run-scoring double that a diving Shawn Teters (Springdale, Ark./Springdale) barely missed squeezing in right center, giving the Huskers a 6-4 advantage. With bases loaded, Justin Esposito (Red Bank, N.J./Middletown North) got Sullivan to ground out to complete the frame.
The Hawks scratched back a run in the top of the eighth, when Braun lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, plating Teters, who led off the frame with a single. MU loaded the bases once again but a groundout by Messineo ended the rally, with the Hawks trailing 6-5.
Esposito registered a 1-2-3 eighth inning to keep the Blue and White within striking distance going into the ninth. Meyers led off the ninth with a single to rightfield, but was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Niederhaus. After a Teters’ fly out, Collazo drew a walk before Casale flew out to center to end the game.
The Hawks had the tying run in scoring position in both of their regional games at the end of each contest.
Buch pitched 6.1 innings, scattering seven hits, which included three infield knocks. The righty struck out five and walked one, while allowing four earned runs. Brach (3-8) was saddled with the loss, allowing one run in a third of an inning. Esposito worked a perfect inning and a third to close out the game.
With his stolen base in the seventh inning, Messineo set a new Northeast Conference record for stolen bases in a season (42), while Meyers finished the regional with three hits, giving him 88 for the year (one off the school record).
Monmouth, which set a new school-record for wins, ends the 2007 campaign with a 36-24-1 mark.