Texas Lutheran's inspired baseball run produces NCAA D3 runner-up finish

Texas Lutheran's inspired baseball run produces NCAA D3 runner-up finish

(Story courtesy of Texas Lutheran athletics)

APPLETON, Wisc. -- Texas Lutheran's inspired run to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship finals ended Tuesday with a pair of losses to the new national champion, the University of Texas at Tyler.

The Patriots defeated the Bulldogs twice in the best-of-three championship series at the DIII World Series and claimed the first national baseball title in UT Tyler history.

At Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, the Patriots defeated TLU 8-1 in the early game and 9-6 in the back-end of the doubleheader.

The losses in the championship round concluded TLU's best-ever finish in a collegiate baseball championship.

The Bulldogs, champions of the NCAA DIII Spokane, Wash. Regional and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, posted the national runner-up finish in a year dedicated to former teammate Keaton Bohrmann, a three-time all-conference player who died in a car crash in October.

TLU players drew inspiration all season from the memory of Bohrmann and from the Bohrmann family, who attended games in Appleton.

TLU, 42-12 and the winner of the NCAA DIII Baseball Championship's Pool B, posted a 4-3 record in the World Series.

TLU went 3-1 in elimination games at Fox Cities Stadium.

"Man, this is a special group," said Greg Burnett, TLU's head baseball coach. "That's the resiliency right there. And it started from day one. On their locker room door, they set their goals. And they put Appleton at the top, and I kind of raised my eyebrows because, gosh, it's been a long time since we had been to a regional tournament. Boy, they checked a lot of boxes off this year."

The Patriots (40-18) completed a 5-1 run through the DIII World Series. UT Tyler, out of the American Southwest Conference, advanced to the national championship series by winning the four-team Pool A in Appleton. The Patriots defeated TLU five times in 2018. The two teams met in a non-conference series in Seguin, Texas on Feb. 23-24.

TLU's second-place finish is the best NCAA Division III final standing in a team sport in school history. TLU Men's Golf claimed a third-place NCAA DIII finish in 2011.

The Bulldogs attempted to become the fifth all-time national team champion in school history. TLU won two NAIA-II national championships in football (1974 and 1975) and two AIAW-II national championships in women's volleyball (1975 and 1976).

The Patriots' championship rally came in the bottom of the seventh in game two. With the game tied at 4-4, first baseman Alex Bishop started a five-run rally by rattling the foul pole down the right-field line for a two-run home run.

UT Tyler then loaded the bases with three consecutive singles and still no outs on the board. The next three runs in the frame came on a bases-loaded walk, a sacrifice fly to center, and a passed ball.

TLU took a 1-0 lead in the fourth with an RBI single to right field off the bat of catcher Cameron Wilson. Tyler Cauley and Keaton Boysen started the one-out rally with back-to-back singles.

After UT Tyler put four on the board in the fourth, the Bulldogs rallied for three runs in the sixth to tie the game. Wilson again delivered an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-2. Eric Rabinowitz brought home a run after he was hit by a pitch. Riley Schaefer then collected a fielder's choice RBI ground ball.

Following the five-run UT Tyler seventh, TLU fought back for two runs in the top of the eighth, closing the Patriots' lead to 9-6. Rabinowitz singled home Chad Curtis, and Schaefer's single to left scored Wilson.

The single in Schaefer's final collegiate at-bat brought his single-season hits total to 95, establishing both the TLU and SCAC records. Schaefer's career hit total of 237 places him third on the all-time TLU list. He trails only former Bulldogs Ryan Nokelby (270) and Johnny Briseno (238).

Bulldog players Cauley, Boysen and Nathan Malinovsky were named to the championship's All-Tournament Team.

TLU's season win total of 42 is the third-most in school history - trailing only the 45 wins from the 1996 team and the 43 wins in 1999.

The national runner-up finish marked the close of the collegiate baseball careers of 11 Bulldog seniors. The seniors on the team are: second baseman Ben Marvin, shortstop Eric Rabinowitz, outfielder Andrew Whitten, outfielder Riley Schaefer, pitcher Dylan Drgac, pitcher Cade Killingsworth, designated hitter Keaton Boysen, outfielder David Vatuna, outfielder Matthew Lemon, pitcher Clint Johns, and first baseman Taylor Sammons.

The seniors led an effort that produced an 11-3 post-season record in 2018 (counting tournament runs in the SCAC, the Spokane, Wash. Regional, and the World Series).

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