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GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - - A three-run bottom of the eighth inning was too much to overcome as the fourth seeded Wilmington University baseball team fell to fifth seeded NYIT, 6-3, in the NCAA Division II East 1 Regional Final on Saturday at Bonomo Field on the campus of Adelphi University.
The loss ends the 2019 season for the Wildcats, being only the second team in the program's NCAA era to win 40 games. They finished 40-17 overall, winning their eighth Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament, and second straight Bill Giles Invitational. The 40 wins are second most in program history, second to only the 2013 team who posted 43 wins.
Trailing for the majority of the game, the Wildcats had life late, tying the game, 3-3, with a two-run top of the eighth inning. But the Bears (35-14) answered right back with a three-run bottom half, regaining the lead, 6-3, heading into the ninth and final inning.
The Wildcats then brought the tying run to the plate with one out in their final at-bats, but a pair of ground balls ended the game and allowed NYIT to advance to the NCAA East Super Regional next weekend.
Kendall Small broke his own single season hits record in the top of the first inning, collecting his 78th base knock of the year. He went 3-for-5, ending his storybook career with his name plastered all over the record books. He had 80 hits this year, totaling 238 for his career. He also set a new single season RBI record with his sixth inning double, bringing in his 63rd run of the year to break Jason Rust's mark set in 2007. His 165 career RBI are also a new program record.
The Bears took an early lead on the Wildcats, scoring three times in the bottom of the second inning. A one out single put runners on first and third before a double scored the game's first run. A second run came home on a chopper to first, as the runner was able to beat the throw home. A sacrifice fly then put the Bears on top, 3-0, after two complete innings.
It looked as though the Wildcats were starting something in the top of the third, as Frank Nigro (at left) avoided a tag running to first to put the first two runners of the inning on. But it was finally ruled Nigro was out of the base line, and a runner was left on third to end the inning.
The Wildcats had a chance in the sixth, as Nigro started the inning off with a double down the left field line. Dakota Graham walked to put two runners on but Quintin Ivy's hard hit ball up the middle was stopped and turned into a double play to halt a big rally. Kendall Small scored the runner from third with a double inside the first base bag and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with two outs. But Max Carney's fly ball to right was caught to end the threat.
Kendall Small doubled to put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth, and the Wildcats were looking to roll once more. Eddie Nevins delivered with a sacrifice fly to bring the game to 3-2, and Brooks Ryan beat out a single down the third base line, scoring Small to tie the game, 3-3.
A leadoff walk came around to score in the bottom of the eighth and then a pair of two out hits tacked on two more runs and the 6-3 lead for the Bears.
Frank Nigro singled and Dakota Graham was hit by a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth. But a chopper to third produced the second out before a grounder to first ended the game.
Dan Sullivan threw 3.1 innings of relief, allowing only one hit while Rudy Gervolino came on and got out the sixth and went 1.1 innings with two strikeouts.
Max Carney (at right) finishes his career second all time with 222 hits, going 1-for-4 on Saturday. Kendall Small went 3-for-5 with two doubles while Frank Nigro ended his career with a 2-for-4 performance.