The Central Connecticut baseball team had its historic season come to an end with a 9-5 setback to TCU in an elimination game at the NCAA Regional on Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville, AR. The Blue Devils end the season with a 31-23 record and recorded the program's first NCAA win with a victory over #24 Cal in an elimination game. Central's senior class of Mike Appel, Tom Curtin, Jared Gallagher and Patrick Mitchell end their career having won two Northeast Conference championships and playing in a pair of NCAA Regionals.
Appel started Sunday's game and battled for 5.2 innings. Despite taking the loss, Appel recorded three strikeouts and scattered 11 hits, while keeping the Blue Devils within striking distance of the Horned Frogs.
The Central offense rapped out 13 hits, with the middle of the order made up of sophomore TT Bowens and juniors Dave Matthews and Buddy Dewaine combining for seven hits. Sophomore Peyton Stephens added two hits, including a homerun, and had three RBIs.
The Blue Devils got onto the scoreboard in the top of the first with a run. Sophomore Sam Loda got it started with a one-out walk. Junior TT Bowens singled into the right field to move Loda to second, before junior Dave Matthews singled back up the middle to plate Loda and make it 1-0.
TCU quickly responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. An error to lead off the inning would put a runner on first and Jake Guenther took a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield wall to put the Horned Frogs in front, 2-1.
Central would put together a threat in the second, getting runners to first and second. Junior Chris Kanios bet out an infield single and stole seccond. Junior Chandler Debrosse would draw a two-out walk to set the stage for Loda. Loda ripped a deep fly to the warning track in left-center and the outfielders collided, but the centerfielder held onto the ball to end the inning.
The Blue Devils would get a leadoff single from Bowens to begin the third that prompted the exit of TCU starting pitcher Dawson Barr. Junior Buddy Dewaine would find a hole up the middle for a one-out single that put runners on first and second before a groundout advanced the runners another base. With two outs, sophomore Peyton Stephens would rope a single into centerfield to drive in two runs and give CCSU a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Guenther tripled to centerfield with one out. Austin Henry would follow with a homerun to left field on a 2-0 pitch to put TCU back in front, 4-3.
Central drew level again the fifth inning. Matthews led off with a double deep into the gap in right-centerfield. Dewaine followed with a hit just inside the third base line that he turned into a double and drove Matthews home to make it 4-4.
TCU was able to manufacture a run in the bottom of the sixth to break the tie. Adam Oviedo would single with one out and then moved to second on a single by Josh Watson. A passed ball moved Oviedo to third and he would score on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Wolfe to make it 5-4 and end Appel's day with two outs. A walk would put two runners on and they moved into scoring position on a double steal. Henry would hit a single into center to drive in two runs and give the Horned Frogs a 7-4 lead.
The Blue Devils opened the eighth inning with Stephens taking an 0-1 pitch and sending into the bullpen in right field to cut the deficit to 7-5. Kanios followed with a single to centerfield and moved to second on a sac bunt by sophomore Matt Bertochi. The Horned Frogs would avoid any further damage by getting a fly ball to left and after going to the bullpen with two outs, got a pop up to first base to end the inning,
TCU would get a leadoff double from Watson in the eighth and Wolfe followed with a two-run homerun to right to push the lead to four runs.
Appel threw 117 pitches and was charged with five earned runs before exiting in the sixth inning. It was his 37th start of his career and 60th appearance in a CCSU uniform. Gallagher, who closed out Saturday's win over Cal, pitched 1.1 innings in his final appearance. Gallagher finished his sterling career with 71 appearances and 21 career saves, the second most in program history.
Matthews and Dewaine each drove in a run for Central. Matthews had a double, while Dewaine was just a homerun short of hitting for the cycle in the loss. Kanios also had a pair of hits for the Central offense.
Jake Eissler came on in relief to get the win. He allowed three runs in 5.2 innings, while striking out six. Guenther had three hits with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Henry finished the game with four RBIs. With the win, TCU improved to 34-27 and advances to play Arkansas in the championship round.