APPLETON, Wis. – Chris Haddeland (Soph., McMinnville, Ore.) threw a complete game in the biggest start of his life and No. 1 Linfield scored four runs in the fourth inning en route to a 4-1 victory over Southern Maine in the championship game of the NCAA Division III Finals Tuesday evening at Fox Cities Stadium.
Linfield (42-8) captured its third national championship in baseball – but first in the NCAA era – adding to NAIA titles in 1966 and 1971. It marked Linfield’s ninth national title in a team sport and second in three years, counting the Wildcat softball team’s 2011 title run.
Haddeland, the NCAA Finals Most Outstanding Player, allowed one run on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts en route to his school-record 15th pitching victory of the season. A perfectly executed squeeze bunt from Kyle Chamberlain (Sr., Portland, Ore.) highlighted a four-run fourth inning that proved to be the deciding play in the final game of the tournament.
"It’s so nice having a pitcher like Chris," said left fielder and co-team captain Tim Wilson (Jr., Redmond, Wash.). "When we put up that four spot we knew that’s pretty much all we had to put up and Chris was just going to go up and shut them out."
After throwing 12 innings earlier Tuesday against Ithaca for the right to challenge Linfield for the national title, Andrew Richards started for Southern Maine (46-10) and threw 3 1/3 innings before turning the ball over to Logan Carman to toss the final 4 2/3.
Richards, who set a tournament record with 24.2 innings of work and threw 209 pitches on Tuesday alone, shut down the Wildcat offense through the opening frames. He made a couple of mistakes in the first, pegging both Corey VanDomelen (Soph., Tigard, Ore.) and Kramer Lindell (Jr., West Linn, Ore.) in the back for a pair of free bases, but got out of trouble with a strikeout and groundout. Throwing first-pitch strikes to all three batters in the second, he retired the side, and put together another three up, three down inning in the third.
Meanwhile, the Huskies jumped on Linfield's ace early, as Sam Dexter sent Haddeland’s first pitch down the right-field line for a double. Southern Maine's leadoff hitter moved to third on a base hit by John Carey and then scored on a wild pitch to make the score 1-0.
"They’re a good team," Haddeland said of the Huskies. "They’re in the championship game of the NCAA tournament so they’re going to get their shot. I left a couple of balls up right at the beginning. I just needed to focus on getting the ball down, and then executing my pitches, staying balanced and just doing all the right fundamental things"
Southern Maine threatened again in the top of the fourth when they loaded the bases with a base hit and a pair of walks. Haddeland buckled down, however, and struck out Anthony Pisani to end the inning.
Nick Fisher (Jr., Lake Oswego, Ore.) shot a double to left center to lead off the bottom of the fourth and an ensuing single from Lindell put runners on the corners for Clayton Truex (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.). The Linfield first baseman lined a 3-2 pitch into center to plate Fisher, and after Jordan Harlow (Sr., Baker City, Ore.) was intentionally walked, Chamberlain laid down the squeeze bunt to score Lindell, giving the ‘Cats a 2-1 lead.
Michael Hopp (Sr., Portland, Ore.) walked with the bases loaded to drive in another run and Linfield scored its fourth run of the inning when a throw to first on an attempt to double up Wilson sailed down the right-field line and allowed Chamberlain to score.
Now working with a lead, Haddeland needed just three pitches to sit down Dexter in the leadoff spot to start the fifth inning. ABCA and D3basball.com Player of the Year Tucker White sent a two-out single through the left side, but shortstop VanDomelen took Forrest Chadwick's follow-up grounder to the bag at second for the final out.
Pisani led off the top of the seventh with a base hit up the middle. A clutch double play turned by Hopp and VanDomelen followed by Harlow's strong throw from deep third ended the inning, however, and kept the score at 4-1.
Linfield loaded the bases off of Carman in the eighth, but the junior lefty got out of the inning without surrendering a run to give the Huskies one final chance at a comeback.
Three outs away from a national title, Haddeland coaxed a pair of pop ups off the Huskies’ bats that were easily handled by Truex at first. The D3baseball.com National Pitcher of the Year gathered himself before getting Pisani to send a soft ground ball to short. VanDomelen scooped it up, threw to Truex at first, and the entire Wildcat team stormed onto the field into the third and final dog pile of the year.
After finishing fifth at the NCAA Finals in 2008 and third in 2010, Scott Brosius guided Linfield to its first national title in baseball in more than 30 years. The former World Series MVP with the New York Yankees added a NCAA championship to his personal list of baseball accomplishments that includes coaching Team USA’s 18U program to gold medals at the 2011 Pan-American Championships and the 2012 IBAF World Championships.
"This ranks up there, believe me," Brosius said. This is about more than just me, this is about more than us. This is a college campus, a community. This is a big deal."
The Wildcats' win in the championship game gave Brosius his 200th victory at his alma mater. He is now 200-72 in six seasons.
Linfield' 42 victories this spring established a new standard of success, surpassing the previous program record of 37 wins set in 2010. Perhaps equally as impressive, the Wildcats did not lose back-to-back games at any point during the season.
Wildcat assistant coaches Scott Carnahan ’73 and Jim Ray ’78, who together have a combined 69 seasons as players and coaches with the Linfield baseball program, celebrated their first national championships.
A campus-wide celebration is planned for Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Roy Helser Field.