COLUMBUS, GA - Lorenzo Wright laced a game-winning single to center in the 12th inning to propel the Belmont Abbey Crusaders to a 6-5 win against the Catawba Indians. The Crusaders, playing in their first NCAA Southeast Regional since 2009, advanced their 2016 record to 39-14-1. Catawba moves to 34-20 on the year with the setback.
The Indians opened up strongly against Abbey starter Blake Waldren, scoring twice in the first inning. Dylan Richardson opened the game with a solo shot to left, followed by a RBI single from Kyle Smith to give Catawba starter Schaefer Shepard a two run lead.
Kayden Krause would put the Abbey on the board in the first, homering to left, cutting the lead to 2-1. The homer for Krause would be one of three Abbey dingers in the contest.
Waldren would begin to settle in as the teams plodded through middle innings and well past midnight. In 5.2 innings of work, Waldren would shake off the first inning doldrums to allow just five hits alongside the lone earned run.
In the third, Conor Kwalwasser would lead off the inning with a walk. Nick Beinlich would follow the free pass with a two run homer of his own, giving the Abbey a 3-2 lead. The homer for Beinlich was his 13th, a new career high for the Pennsylvania outfielder.
In the sixth, Thomas Yoder would deliver a prodigious clout to up the lead to 4-2 for the Crusaders. For Yoder, it was his third of the year, offering the bullpen some needed insurance.
Catawba, however, had other ideas, scoring three times in the seventh to retake a 5-4 lead. Luke Server would deliver the big blow in the frame, a two RBI hit, giving the Indians the chance to advance in the regional.
Shepard would make the lead last into the ninth, as the right hander went 8+ innings, striking out 12, while allowing just the three hits on the evening.
In the ninth, the Crusaders were able load the bases with one out. Lorenzo Wright would walk to lead off, followed by a Matt McGarry hit by pitch and a walk to Kwalwasser.
Catawba, trying desperately to cling to the thin lead, would bring DJ Lawton on to face Nick Beinlich.
Beinlich would tie the game at five on a single to right center, scoring Wright. McGarry, tagging on the play at second would be forced to round third with Kwalwasser hot on his heels. The sophomore from San Diego would require the Indians to execute a perfect relay to preserve the tie. Jeremy Simpson would throw a strike to the plate, where Will Albertson would apply the tag. A strikeout of Krause would retire the side, sending the game to extras.
Kyle Halbohn, who entered the fray in the eighth, dominated the Indians for the final five frames. The senior from Pawley's Island, SC, recorded 9 strikeouts on just one hit to give the Abbey numerous chances to walk off with the win.
Halbohn's effort would meet its reward in the 12th, as Colin Rosenbaum singled in the inning, followed by a Nunziato hit by pitch and a Yoder walk.
That would set the scene for Wright, who sizzled a line drive to center, scoring Rosenbaum, delighting the Abbey fans who stayed on site for the better part of nine hours to witness the affair.
Halbohn would earn the win for the Abbey, sending the Crusaders to a day two meeting with the #2 seed Lander Bearcats. First pitch is slated for 5:30, though considerable rainfall is expected for the Columbus area throughout the day. Tyler Byrnes will take the hill for the Abbey, seeking just their second NCAA postseason win since the magical ride of 2009.
Catawba will return to Burger King Stadium to face Mount Olive in a 10:30am elimination game.
Follow the Crusaders on BASN, by logging on to: www.basn.wgnc.net. Listeners in the Gastonia area can catch the game on am1450 WGNC. Pregame is slated for 5:15pm. Please follow the Crusaders on twitter: @abbeyathletics, to get real time updates on the 2016 NCAA Southeast Regional from Columbus, GA.