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No. 2 Lander opens NCAA Regional with 18th straight win

No. 2 Lander opens NCAA Regional with 18th straight win

GREENWOOD - Connor Lewis hit a three-run double and Dylan Wolchik allowed only three hits, leading the top seed and nationally second-ranked Lander Bearcats to a 4-1 victory over No. 6 seed Catawba College Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament hosted by Lander University at Dolny Stadium.

Lander improved to 48-6 and will face No. 4 seed USC Aiken Friday at 3:45. Catawba fell to 33-19 and meets No. 2 seed Mount Olive at noon in a loser's bracket game.

It was the 18th consecutive victory for the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament champion Bearcats, who have not lost since April 5 at USC Aiken.

Wolchik (11-1) broke the school record for victories in a season, allowing only three singles in a complete game effort. He struck out four and walked three. It was his third complete game of the season.

The Bearcats chased Catawba ace Craig Brooks with four runs in the bottom of the third. With one out, Thomas Bess, Erik Lunde and Patrick Grady drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Lewis cleared the bases with a three-run double to right center, extending his school record for RBI in a season to 71. Thomas Berry followed with a single, sending Lewis to third and prompting the Indians to go to their bullpen. Brooks entered the game with a 12-2 record and 1.97 ERA but only lasted 2.1 innings.

Weston Lawing greeted reliever Shaefer Shepard with an RBI single to left to give Lander a 4-0 lead, and Graham Ramos walked to load the bases. Shepard escaped further damage when he got Colby Painter to hit into a double play on a 3-2 pitch, and the Bearcats would not score again.

Meanwhile, Wolchik sailed through the first five innings, retiring the side in each of the first three frames, allowing a single to Paul Kronenfeld in the fourth, and retiring the side in order again in the fifth thanks in part to a spectacular play by Lunde at shortstop.

Wolchik escaped a jam in the top of the sixth after Dylan Richardson layed down a bunt single on the third-base line and Blake Houston walked. But Wolchik came back from a 2-0 count to strike Kronenfeld out, and Keaton Hawks lined out to left field for the final out.

Catawba ended Wolchik's shutout bid in the seventh when Ethan Satterfield blooped a single in front of the left fielder, stole second and moved to third when Lander's infield mishandled the throw, and scored on T.J. Wharton's sacrifice fly to left.

Wolchik walked one in the eighth and the leadoff batter Hawks in the ninth. With a runner on second and two out in the ninth, he struck Julio Zubillaga out looking to end the game.

Indians starter Brooks (12-3) allowed four runs on three hits in 2.1 innings, walking four and striking out three. Shepard allowed one hit and three walks in 1.2 innings of relief. Catawba's third pitcher, Michael Trombino, was outstanding allowing only one hit and one walk while fanning four in four innings.

Lander's Berry was the only player with multiple hits, going 2-for-2 with two walks. The double by Lewis was the only extra-base hit of the game.