CARY, N.C. - - The 2015 Wilmington University baseball season came to a close on Monday afternoon in an elimination game at the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships, 5-0, to #10 Angelo State at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The season of firsts saw the Wildcats (37-15) claim their first ever NCAA Division II East Regional Tournament and a berth into the NCAA Division II Baseball Finals. The Wildcats have been to six previous East Regional Tournament prior to finally breaking through this year.
The big hit eluded the Wildcats offensively while defensive mistakes hurt the team in the field on Monday afternoon.
After leaving two runners on base with only one out in the top of the third, a fielding error in the bottom half allowed the first two runs of the game to come home. Wilmington starter Frank Samluk allowed a leadoff double in the bottom of the third before hitting a batter with one out to put runner son first and second. Samluk struck out another batter for the second out of the inning before a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position.
The Ram's (42-17) Derek Tyner chopped one to second and the ball found a way past a charging Josh Swirchak at second to allow two runs to come home.
The Wildcats again put two runners on base in the top of the fourth inning, but Jon Castro grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat, keeping the Wildcats off the board.
Connor Stevens started the fifth inning with a leadoff single before stealing second base with one out. But a pair of outs on the base paths forced the Wildcats out of the inning, as Stevens was caught off second on a grounder back to the mound and Christian Adorno was caught attempting to steal second.
The Wildcats best opportunity may have come in the top of the sixth inning Swirchak and Tyler Hawthorne hit back-to-back singles with two outs in the inning. Jesse Long worked a walk to load the bases but Ram starter Steve Naemark got out of the jam as Castro sharply grounded out to first base.
The Rams capitalized on another error in the bottom of the sixth as the Rams started the inning with back-to-back singles. Attempting to move the runners along, the Rams loaded the bases, as Stevens couldn't come up with the bunt at third. Rob Gore came on to put out the fire for the Wildcats, striking out the first batter he saw for the first out of the inning.
But the Rams made it count, as Elias Aquirre doubled to center field, bringing in a pair for the 4-0 lead. Two batters later, a failed pick-off attempt at second base brought in another run, bringing the score to 5-0.
The Wildcats went quietly in each of the next three innings, with only Matt Lopes picking up a one out single in the top of the eighth inning.
Swirchak paced the offense by going 3-for-4 with a double while Stevens batted 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. Lopes and Hawthorne rounded out the seven hits for the Wildcats.
Samluk was saddled with the loss, falling to 6-1 on the year while striking out three batters in five innings. He allowed five runs (two earned) on five hits in the loss. Ray Gambone tossed a scoreless seventh inning while Tyler Fries pitched a scoreless ninth.
The Wildcats' most accomplished season comes to a close as 13 seniors led the team. The team will look to regroup after Frank Samluk, Sam Goines, Matt Lopes, Josh Swirchak, Tyler Hawthorne, Brendan Fallers, Sean Feeney, Jon Castro, Rob Gore, Ray Gambone, Tyler Fries, Ryan Douglas, and Jamie Treml all saw their historical careers come to a close.