Ravens open World Series with win

Loss in game two of D-II national finals had FPU fighting for season on Wednesday

For just the second time in six trips to the NCAA Division II Championship National Finals, the Franklin Pierce University baseball team won its opening game.

The 1-0 victory over Atlantic Region champion Shippensburg on Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. put the Ravens into the second round of the double elimination tournament against Central Region champion Minnesota State, Mankato on Monday.

But the results were not as favorable. FPU committed three errors and saw a seventh inning rally that pulled them to within one go to waste in a 10-5 loss that had the Ravens fighting for their season on Wednesday.

FPU played Grand Valley State on Wednesday with the winner advancing to play the University of Tampa on Thursday in one of the national semifinals, while the loser would go home.

It is not uncharted waters for the East Region champion Ravens, as they won three elimination games on their way to the sixth regional title in program history.

FPU is making its first appearance in the national finals since 2010 when the team advanced to the semifinals.

In Saturday’s opener, the Ravens got eight strong innings out of junior Trevor Graham and made a late run hold up in the shutout win over Shippensburg.

Freshman Justin Brock had a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to break up the scoreless tie and junior closer Joe Flynn worked around a one-out walk in the ninth for his fifth save of the season.

Graham struck out nine and scattered seven hits and three walks. The victory highlighted quite a week for the junior righthander. Graham, who had already been named the Northeast-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional, earned East Region Pitcher of the Year honors from Daktronics and the American Baseball Coaches Association and was selected to the Daktronics All-America First Team. Graham was also named a finalists for the Tino Martinez Award and the Josh Willingham Award.

On Monday, the Ravens trailed 6-0 after three innings against Mankato, but rallied to make it a game in the seventh. After plating one in the top of the fifth, FPU scored four times in the seventh to close the deficit to 6-5. Calvin Graves and Dan Kemp both singled to scored runs and Zach Mathieu plated a pair with a double. But after leaving two runners in scoring position in the eighth, Mankato added four runs to its lead in the last of the frame.

Entering Wednesday’s contest with Grand Valley State, the Ravens owned a 37-18 record. They were first in the NE-10 Northeast Division and held the best conference record. After falling in the first round of the NE-10 tournament, FPU earned an at-large bid to the East Regional.

FPU played in its first national finals in 2003 and also went in 2006 to 2008.

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