WHITEWATER, Wis. – St. Thomas’ four-month quest to defend its NCAA Division III title ended here Friday evening with a 5-4 loss to UW-Whitewater.
The Tommies finished the season 35-9, with seven of those losses coming by only one run. That situation repeated itself twice during the NCAA Midwest regional tournament, first with a 2-1 loss to UW-Stevens Point on Thursday and then with the Whitewater win.
St. Thomas trailed the entire game as Whitewater jumped out to leads of 1-0, 3-0 and 5-2. The Tommies rallied in the bottom of the seventh for two runs and had bases loaded with one out but couldn’t deliver the tying run, and the Warhawks held on to win.
“Thank you for a good season,” Coach Chris Olean told his team in the post-game huddle. “I had a blast in my first year, and I hope I lived up to your expectations.”
Olean also commended his eight seniors – John Bauer, Derek Jacobson, Roy Larson, Matt Nelson, Matt Olson, Matt Schuld, Brandon Stone and Tom Wippler – for their leadership. “You have been leaders all year, and you set a great example for everyone.”
Whitewater advances to a Saturday rematch with Stevens Point, which beat the Warhawks 12-4 in Friday’s first game. They will need to beat the Pointers twice on Saturday to advance to the national tournament May 28-June 1 in Appleton, Wis.
The Warhawks struck early on Friday, opening the game with three consecutive hits off St. Thomas starter Bryce Gapinski to take a 1-0 lead. They added two runs in the fourth inning after two were out on two hits and a throwing error.
St. Thomas got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Tom Wipler and Roy Larson, who later scored on a catcher’s error. Whitewater boosted its lead to 5-2 with single runs in the sixth and seventh.
The Tommies loaded the bases in their half of the seventh on a walk, a one-out single and a walk. Wipler and Larson followed with back-to-back RBI singles to cut the Whitewater lead to 5-4 with the bases still loaded. But St. Thomas couldn’t squeeze in the tying run.
“That hurt,” Olean said. “We battled – we really battled. We just needed one more hit there.”
The game ended with both teams’ aces – Matt Schuld (10-1) for St. Thomas and Riley Tincher (12-1) for Whitewater – on the mound. Schuld held the Warhawks to two hits over the last three innings, and Tincher gave up a two-out single to Wippler in the ninth before inducing Larson into a short-to-second force to end the game.