The Nova Southeastern University baseball team opened up the NCAA South Region tournament with an 8-1 win over Sunshine State Conference rival Lynn University on Thursday.
Justin Garcia hit his 25th and 26th home runs of the year, and Alex Mateo picked up his 10th win.
The Sharks came in with a chip on their shoulder, looking to take down Lynn, the only team that won a series against the Sharks (39-11, 18-6) this season.
Mateo set the tone early, striking out three of the first hitters he faced, setting the Fighting Knights down 1-2-3 in the top of the first and second inning. While Mateo was taking care of Lynn’s offense, Nova was getting a feel for the Fighting Knights’ starting pitcher Travis Connelly.
After one time through the order, Nova took a 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning, when Andres Visbal led the inning with a double to left centerfield. Dylan Woods then bunted Visbal over to third base, followed by a Roche Woodard ground out to Lynn’s shortstop, scoring Visbal from third.
Lynn threatened in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases with two outs, but Mateo wasn’t ready to let the Fighting Knights (34-14-1, 14-9-1) score, as he threw a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner to get Lynn’s Matt Tietz swinging.
Mateo stormed off of the mound with emotion and his offense rallied behind him, scoring six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Alexander Fernandez led the inning with a walk, followed by a back-to-back home runs, as Garcia crushed a two-run home run over the tailgate decks in right field and Michael Hernandez sent a towering shot over the left-field fence.
Nova then loaded the bases and Woodard laced a single to center field, scoring Nick McNeil. Mario Urdaneta then drew a walk, scoring Kavan Thompson. After a Lynn pitching change, Fernandez was hit by a pitch, resulting in the sixth run of the inning as Visbal scored from third.
Lynn scored one run in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly off of the bat of John Borup. That was the only run Mateo allowed, as he went seven strong and struck out six batters.
Garcia put the icing on the cake in the bottom of the seventh inning, smashing a solo home run over the right-field fence for his 26th home run of the year.
The Sharks will face the winner of No. 3 Tampa-No.4 Florida Tech on Friday night at 7 p.m.
No. 2 Nova Southeastern shot a team total of 309 to move into sixth place overall with two rounds to go at the NCAA Division II national championships in Allendale, Michigan. Liliana Cammisa, Mailen Domecq Chantry and Jamie Freedman each led the Sharks with a score 77. Domecq Chantry is tied for 10th among individuals at 153, while the rest of the team is separated by two strokes.
▪ Barry 5, Columbus State 0: Kimmy Twelker won her second tournament singles match in a row, beating Elena Preadca 6-1, 6-0 to help lead the Buccaneers to the NCAA Division II semifinals in Surprise, Arizona.
▪ Barry 5, Cameron 0: Franco Echenique and Nico Dreer each swept their matches to help the Buccaneers (24-0) advance to the NCAA Division II semifinals in Surprise, Arizona. Echenique’s 6-4, 6-2 win over Justin Baciu at No. 6 singles clinched the match. Dreer made quick work of Felipe Oyarzun, winning 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to give Barry a 4-0 lead.
No. 2 Barry will play No. 8 Lander (19-3) in Friday’s semifinals.