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Wingate wins D2 baseball national championship, overcoming slow start to tournament

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Wingate reports 73 COVID-19 cases on campus(Wingate University)
Published: Jun. 12, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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CARY, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Freshman Scott Broderson pitched five innings of no-hit relief Saturday, lifting Wingate to a 5-3 victory over No. 1-ranked Central Missouri in the NCAA Division 2 championship game.

It was the first national baseball title for the Bulldogs (39-13), who lost in the opening round of the College World Series, then defeated nationally-ranked teams on five straight days.

It was the first time since Florida Southern in 2005 that a team won the national title after losing in the first round.

Wingate was unable to hold late-inning leads in elimination games Thursday and Friday, and the Bulldogs had to rally.

It was a different story Saturday.

Playing before a large and enthusiastic crowd of mostly-Wingate fans at the Baseball USA National Training Complex in Cary, Broderson entered the game in the fifth inning and allowed only one runner — on a walk in the ninth inning — the rest of the way.

Central Missouri had gained a spot in the championship game by beating defending national champion Tampa 3-1 on Saturday morning.

That game had been started Friday evening, but it was suspended due to a thunderstorm.

In the finals, Wingate struck first.

But Wingate struck first in the title game.

The Bulldogs took advantage of shoddy fielding by the Mules in the bottom of the third inning, scoring twice off three errors by Central Missouri infielders. McCann Mellett and Michael Dansky each came home on miscues.

The Mules went back in front in the next inning. Alex Madera’s double brought home Donovan Ditto, and Brennen van Breusegen singled home Madera. Later in the top of the fourth, Josh Schumacher’s RBI single scored van Breusegen.

But Wingate took the lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Crest High’s Logan McNeely singled home Mellett, then took second on a Jed Bryant single. Gehrig Christopher, an East Rutherford product, smacked a single into left field, scoring McNeely and giving Wingate a 4-3 lead.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were getting strong pitching from Broderson, who entered in relief of starter Hunter Dula with no outs and a runner on first in the fifth. He retired the Mules on a strikeout and double play.

Broderson continued his domination with no-hit pitching in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

Wingate expanded its lead to 5-3 in the seventh inning, thanks to an unlikely hero.

Jed Bryant opened the inning with an infield single. Then Bulldogs’ coach Jeff Gregory opted to send Grayson Chapman to bat as a pinch-hitter. It was the first at-bat in the College World Series for Chapman, who was batting .196.

Chapman promptly smacked a double off the right-field wall, scoring Bryant.

In the top of the ninth, Central Missouri’s van Breusegen reached on a two-out walk, but Broderson struck out Scott Wolverton to end the game.

JUST NOTING

▪ Wingate’s only other NCAA Division 2 championship came in 2016, via the men’s soccer team.

▪ Gehrig Christopher, who drove in what proved to be the winning run, is the grandson of the late Ron Christopher, legendary baseball coach at Wingate for more than 30 years.

▪ It was Wingate’s first appearance in the baseball championship game, but Central Missouri was in the finals for the fourth time. The Mules won the Division 2 title in 1994 and 2003.

▪ Wingate was the third North Carolina team to reach the championship game. Mount Olive won the national title in 2008, and Catawba lost in the finals six years ago.

▪ Wingate’s Logan McNeely, of Crest High, had 12 hits in the College World Series and batted .462.

▪ As top seed in the College World Series, Central Missouri played twice in the first six days, then three times in the final two days.

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