The North Greenville Crusaders are heading back to Cary, N.C., where they won their first-ever NCAA Division II national title last year, looking for a repeat.
After eliminating Belmont Abbey on May 26, North Greenville’s players ran together, throwing their hands up and leaping into a dog pile. A sign on the scoreboard behind them read, “Ticket punched 2023!”
“We’re proud that we can represent this university and continue on to Cary,” said NGU’s head coach Landon Powell after Friday’s game.
North Greenville beat Belmont Abbey in the NCAA DII Southeast Super Regional by winning the first two games of a best-of-three series.
In the first game, NGU’s Reece Fields started out strong on the mound in the top of the first inning. Fields pitched six consecutive innings.
NGU took the lead in the bottom of the first inning with two unearned runs. From the dugout, an NGU player yelled, “If they’re gonna’ give it to us, we might as well take it.”
NGU’s momentum built in the bottom of the second inning. With two outs, Carter Dierdorf homered to left field, scoring two RBIs. Then, David Lewis hit a home run, earning two more RBIs in the third inning. The game reached a climax in the fourth inning when Pat Monteith, John Michael Faile, and Jalen Vasquez all hit balls out of the park, putting the score at 10-0.
Belmont Abbey fought back in the fifth inning by putting four runs on the scoreboard. But NGU’s momentum continued in the bottom of the inning when Faile hit another home run that tallied three more runs.
Belmont Abbey managed to score four runs in the sixth and seventh innings, giving them eight. But NGU stayed on top, finishing the game with a 16-8 win.
Monteith said that the team joked about not wanting to play tomorrow. “Let’s win it today. Let’s not even worry about tomorrow,” said Monteith.
The second game brought in a crowd of about 500 people to the Ray and Bea Dillard Field on the NGU campus.
The game began with Dierdorf, Pat Monteith, and Faile all making it on base. With the bases loaded, Marek Chlup sent a ball to deep left field, allowing Dierdorf and Monteith to score. Faile later crossed home plate, giving NGU a three-run lead.
Belmont Abbey earned four runs in the first inning, including a three-RBI homer by Carter DuHaime. Belmont Abbey added another run in the second inning, putting the score at 5-3. In the top of the fourth, Faile homered to center field, allowing three RBIs and giving NGU the lead.
Belmont Abbey tied the score at 6-6 in the fifth inning. The sixth, seventh, and eighth innings all remained scoreless.
But in the final inning, Monteith walked to first base, followed by a home run by Faile, adding two runs. Two more were earned when Vasquez homered, increasing the score to 10-6.
NGU’s pitcher Michael Rodriguez then finished off Belmont Abbey, allowing only one run on an error by NGU’s shortstop.
NGU took last Saturday off before preparing this week for their trip to the national championship game in Cary.
Coach Powell often says that baseball is an awesome game, but his real motivation behind the game is love.
“I do what I do because of love,” Powell said. “For the love of God, for the love of people, and for the love of the game.”
The NGU Crusaders will play their first game in Cary at the USA Baseball National Training Complex against Augustana University on June 4 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/6945/usa-baseball-national-training-complex.