Division II Southeast Regionals in review: ‘Crusaders never out of it’

“This is a new team, and we’re going to write a new story,” said Coach Landon Powell, head coach of North Greenville University’s baseball team.

The Crusaders have built a reputation for being winners during their 2022 NCAA DII National Championship run. But that was last year’s team, and there are players in the dugout who were not here last year. Powell said he wants this year’s team to write their own story.

On May 18-20, North Greenville made its sixth appearance in the Southeast Regional tournament against Georgia Southwestern University and the University of Mount Olive. In a double-elimination format, the Crusaders won three games, losing only one game and securing their spot in the Super Regional Tournament that begins May 26.

In the Southeast tournament, Georgia Southwestern lost to Mount Olive. The losing team then faced North Greenville. GSW had one last chance to stay in the tournament.

The game with NGU started with GSW taking a 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st inning and adding a run in the top of the 2nd. The next four innings were scoreless. At the bottom of the 7th, the Crusader’s Carter Dierdorf made a sacrifice fly, allowing Cory Bivins to score. NGU scored two more runs in the 8th, including a home run by David Lewis. The score was 4-3 with GSW leading. GSW then made a run at the top of the 9th.

Down by two, NGU had one last inning to make a comeback. John Michael Faile said he wanted to get out there and do something to help his team win.

Faile not only helped his team win, but also made NCAA DII history with a 76th career home run that allowed both Pat Monteith and Dierdorf to score, resulting in a walk-off victory for the Crusaders. The final score was 6-5.

Powell said that the game was maybe one of the most fun games ever played at NGU’s ballpark.

GSW was eliminated from the tournament, leaving the Crusaders to face Mount Olive. On May 19, both rivals met for game one of three.

The Crusaders got off to a rough start. Mount Olive led 5-0 after the 1st inning, which included back-to-back homers by UMO’s Jack Casbarro and Landon Choboy.

David Lewis homered for the Crusaders in the top of the 2nd inning. Then Faile followed with a home run in the 3rd, allowing 3 RBIs, and Lewis homered again, tying the score at 5-5. But UMO broke away in the 4th and 5th innings with eight additional runs.

NGU managed to get a run in the top of the 4th and a home run by Cory Bivins in the top of the 7th, but it wasn’t enough. According to Powell, a bad time on the mound accounted for the loss as the Crusaders’ pitchers gave away 14 free bases. The final score was 13-7.

“We’re no stranger to having to fight with our back against the wall,” Powell said, confident that the Crusaders would be prepared for the next game.

The next day began a new chapter for the Crusaders. After the first inning, NGU led 3-1. The Crusaders pulled away in the 3rd and 4th innings, adding four more runs and giving them a six-run lead at 7-1. Both teams scored two runs in the 5th inning, including homers by Bryce Roddey and Cory Bivins.

In the bottom of the 7th, Dierdorf homered to right field, scoring 2 RBIs and bringing the score to 11-3. UMO scored two runs in the 8th but went scoreless in the 9th, resulting in NGU’s victory. Brody Fowler, who pitched seven innings, contributed to the Crusaders’ success.

The Crusaders earned their ticket to the Super Regionals in game three. UMO took an early lead by one run, but the Crusaders bounced back in the 3rd and 4th innings, scoring five runs to lead the game 5-1. UMO then gained a single run in the 5th. On the defensive side, NGU’s Michael Rodriguez proved successful on the mound, pitching for five innings.

In the top of the 9th, the Crusaders gained four runs, giving them a nine-run lead. Pitcher Nate Roof finished the game, sealing North Greenville’s 9-2 victory.

As Dierdorf said, “ ‘Saders are never out of it.”

— Mary Margaret Flook is a senior communication major at North Greenville University.