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Lander falls into College World Series loser's bracket

Lander shortstop Matt White makes a stop against Nova Southeastern Tuesday night in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship tournament. (Photo by Bob Stoner)
Lander shortstop Matt White makes a stop against Nova Southeastern Tuesday night in the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship tournament. (Photo by Bob Stoner)

CARY, N.C. – The Lander Bearcats allowed all 12 runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and fell into the loser's bracket of the NCAA Division II Baseball National Championships with a 12-1 loss to Nova Southeastern Tuesday evening at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. (Photo Gallery)

Lander fell to 43-15 on the season and will meet the University of Southern Indiana Wednesday at 3. The Bearcats must win Wednesday to stay alive in the College World Series.

The Sharks from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., improved to 41-16. They will play on Thursday against the winner of Central Missouri and Cal Poly Pomona, who meet in a loser's bracket contest Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Just like in Saturday's opener, Lander took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Zach Daly homer. The senior center fielder hit a 3-2 pitch off the scoreboard over the right-field wall, his 23rd homer and 77th RBI of the season.

The Bearcats threatened in the bottom of the second but failed to score. However, Nova Southeastern lost its starting catcher. John Mangum hit a leadoff single and Taylor Kellner reached on catcher's interference when he knocked Michael Hernandez's glove off on a foul ball down the third base line. Hernandez had to be replaced by Jake Anchia. Alex Conaway bunted the runners over to second and third with just one out, but the next two Lander hitters were retired.

The Sharks took a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth, which started with Andres Visbal's double which was nearly caught in the gap by a diving Daly but came out of his glove on impact with the ground. Brandon Gomez reached on an infield single, there were two costly errors, Kavan Thompson lashed a two-run single, and Dylan Woods added an RBI ground out.

Nova Southeastern built its lead to 6-1 in the top of the fifth on Daniel Zardon's two-run homer just over the left-field wall. It was Zardon's 14th homer of the season and the first not hit by a Lander player in eight CWS games.

Daly was robbed of possibly his second homer of the game in the bottom on the fifth on right fielder Thompson's leaping catch at the top of the wall.

Lander starting pitcher Will Jones was replaced on the mound after five innings. Jones (10-3) took the loss, allowing six runs, four earned, on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

The Sharks opened the top of the sixth with seven consecutive hits off Bearcats relievers Matt Thorpe and Praise Thorsen, leading to six more runs and a 12-1 lead. Woods and Gomez had two-run singles, Visbal had an RBI single, and Zardon added a sacrifice fly for what turned out to be the game's final run.

While Thorpe did not retire any of the five batters he faced, Thorsen worked three innings allowing two runs on three hits with no walks and one strikeout. Joseph Whitt pitched a scoreless ninth for the Bearcats, including one strikeout.

Alexander Kline (4-1) got the win for Nova Southeastern, allowing one run on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings. Steven Fleming worked two scoreless innings for the Sharks while Joe DiBenedetto added one scoreless inning.

Leading hitters for the Sharks were Gomez, 4-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI; Thompson, 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI; Woods, 2-for-4 with three RBI; Visbal, 2-for-5; and Zardon, 1-for-3 with a homer, two runs and three RBI.

Lander was held to four hits, one each by Daly, Thomas Berry, Mangum and pinch hitter Gatlin Minick.