WATERTOWN, Wis. – The Lakeland Muskies pulled off a pair of wins, but not without a battle as the Crusaders took each game to nine innings, losing 5-2 and 11-2 on Monday evening.
The ‘Sader’s defense set the tempo in game one, holding the Muskies to three runs on one hit, entering the fourth inning.
Down 4-0 entering the sixth inning, Maranatha responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth. The Crusaders had three straight hits to open the inning, beginning with freshman infielder Timothy Rogers’ (Willmar, Minn.) single.
Seniors Garett Ordway (Pensacola, Fla.) and Tim Shelp (Independence, Mo.) also had singles, setting up a bases load walk to sophomore second baseman Galen Balinski (Mountainhome, Pa.), which scored Rogers.
Lakeland tacked on one more run in the eighth inning for a 5-1 lead, but in the ninth, Maranatha gave the Muskies a scare when senior pitcher Andy Timblin (Muscoda, Wis.) started a rally with a single RBI to score Balinski.
The late-inning rally would come short though, as the next three batters were retired.
Every batter in Maranatha’s lineup finished with one hit, while Timblin pitched 5.1 innings for the loss, allowing just four runs, four unearned and striking out one.
In game two, Lakeland held a 3-0 lead, but the Crusaders once again responded, this time with two runs, off an error.
A stalemate ensued for the next five innings, and the Muskies, who were held to just two hits in the time span, finally broke free with five runs in the seventh.
Lakeland carried the momentum for the rest of the game, scoring three more runs and giving Balinski his second loss of the season.
Balinski pitched seven solid innings, allowing just six hits, and five earned runs while striking out two. Ordway finished as the leading hitter, going 2-4 from the plate.
Maranatha moves on to face Lincoln Christian in a doubleheader for the NCCAAII Midwest Regionals beginning Wednesday at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
The games, originally scheduled for Tuesday at the same times, were moved due to forecasted rain. If Maranatha sweeps, they will earn the right to play in the NCCAAII World Series. If the teams split, a deciding game will be played in Watertown, at a date to be determined.