Salisbury trips St. Thomas, sweeps NCAA Division III baseball championship

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With two walk-off wins and seven other comeback victories in the postseason, the St. Thomas baseball team rode its penchant for rallying all the way to the NCAA Division III College World Series championship round.

On Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, however, the Tommies’ run ended with a 4-2 loss to Salisbury (Md.), which swept the best-of-three championship series.

Benji Thalheimer allowed one run and six hits over 4⅓ innings, and two relievers combined for 4⅔ innings of one-run relief as the sixth-ranked Sea Gulls (34-4) beat the No. 19 Tommies (37-10) to clinch its first Division III baseball national championship.

The competition was the final one for any St. Thomas sport as an NCAA Division III member. The school begins play in NCAA Division I in the 2021-22 season.

Tommies starter Andrew Tri gave up four runs and 11 hits over seven innings while taking the loss for St. Thomas.

As they did in Monday’s 6-1 loss in Game 1, the Tommies scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on Avery Lehman’s bases-loaded single. The Sea Gulls avoided further damage, though, when Josh Thorp grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Salisbury responded with a three-run fourth, highlighted by Kavi Caster’s two-run single. The Sea Gulls added a run in the seventh on Jacob Ference’s RBI groundout.

The Tommies had a chance to rally came in the fifth when Matthew Enck and Sam Kusela singled and Lehman reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with two outs. Thalheimer struck out Thorp looking to end the threat.

In the bottom of the ninth the Tommies threatened again. Enck reached on an error and took third on Kulesa’s two-out single. After Avery walked to load the bases, chasing reliever Corey Burton, D3 All-America reliever Clayton Dwyer took over. The Tommies cut the lead to 4-2 when Enck scored on shortstop Stephen Rice’s error on Thorp’s grounder, but the rally ended when Charlie Bartholomew flew out to left to end the game.

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