NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Christopher Newport University's Steven Keener hit two home runs in the NCAA Newport News Regional final, helping the top seed and regional-host Captains to a 12-3 win over the Salisbury University baseball team on Saturday at Captains Park.
CNU claimed the regional title and will face the winner of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater-University of St. Thomas (Minn.) game in the first round of the NCAA College World Series next week.
Sophomore Joey Jones, one of two Sea Gulls named to the regional all-tournament team, was 2-for-4 on the day while senior Chris Connor was 2-for-3 with a run scored and one driven in. senior righty Jeff Hoffman was the other Salisbury player named to all-tournament team after pitching 12 1/3 innings in the 2-1, 14-inning win over Shenandoah on Friday.
Junior right-hander Andrew Levy (8-2), coming back on three-days rest took the loss for SU on the mound. He went 6 1/3 innings and allowed eight hits and six runs with three strikeouts and one walk after throwing 118 pitches in a complete-game win over Lynchburg College on Wednesday.
"We didn't play well," said Salisbury Head Coach Doug Fleetwood. "You want to get to this point and, whether you winner or lose because there are always good teams, you want to compete.
"We didn't swing it the whole tournament," Fleetwood continued. "Fortunately, we got some good pitching other times, but once we go to the bullpen – it's almost a year-long thing – we struggled. And you can't give nine runs to somebody when you're in a big game."
After Salisbury got to within 3-2 in the fifth, CNU scored seven straight runs to take command.
Leading, 1-0, in the top of the second inning, Keener ripped a line drive over the right-field wall to give Christopher Newport a 3-0 advantage.
Keener, who also hit the tournament's first home run against Shenandoah University earlier in the day to get CNU to the championship game and was named regional Most Outstanding Player, went 3-for-4 with the two home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored.
Salisbury cut into the lead with a run in the bottom of the second to make it 3-1. Connor led off with a single up the middle and Quinn Griffith followed getting hit by CNU pitcher James Walsh (2-0). Kyle Hayman moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt before Johnny Schiotis and Bill Root earned consecutive walks to force in a run.
The Gulls got one closer with a run in the fifth to make it 3-2 on a sacrifice fly by Connor. Consecutive singles by Ken O'Neill and Jones put runners on first and second to start the inning. Tyler Bennett moved the pair up on sacrifice bunt prior to Connor's run-scoring fly ball to right-center field.
That was as close as the Gulls got, though. Shannon Mark added a two-run single up the middle in the sixth for Christopher Newport (34-8), scoring Ben Lenda and Keener and scored three more in the seventh on Keener's three-run blast to right, pushing the CNU lead to 8-2.
Down, 10-2 in the eighth. Salisbury got one run back in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally. Hayman took a seven-pitch walk from Greg Goldsmith and Schiotis singled to left field. Nick Walls lined a double down the left-field line to score Hayman.
Walsh picked up the win, going five innings and scattering six hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts and two walks.
"Great group of kids," said Fleetwood. "Tyler's been with us a couple years and he was a good leader out there for us. Nick Walls hasn't gotten a lot of opportunities this year and came out today and got two big hits for us. He's somebody who never complained, never said a word when he didn't get opportunities. Chris Connor has been a mainstay swinging for us. Jeff Hoffman, look what he did for us the other day so we've had some real good guys. We've been really fortunate and those guys, I'm sure, will all be successful and hopefully we'll get some guys that will come in here and try to follow their tradition as we go."