Lawrence baseball exits NCAA Tournament with loss to Coe College

Head coach Chris Krepline meets with his players before practice as they prepare to play in the...
Head coach Chris Krepline meets with his players before practice as they prepare to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1979.(WBAY-TV)
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 9:47 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. -- A breakout season for the Lawrence University baseball team came to an end Saturday.   

Lawrence fell 6-1 to Coe College in an elimination game of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Zimmermann Field.    

“Just couldn’t get they key hit. It just wasn’t our day,” Lawrence coach Chris Krepline said.   

The strong-hitting Vikings, who hit .323 this season, were limited to five hits. Balls that were hit hard seemed to find the glove of a Coe fielder.   

Taylor Freeman led the Vikings by going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double. Parker Knoll, Spenser Ross and Mitchell Sandleback had the other hits for the Vikings.     Lawrence (26-13) looked poised to break through against Coe starter Tyce Johnson in the top of the third inning. Errors on balls hit by Luke Miles and Ross put two runners aboard, and Sandleback’s bunt single loaded the bases with no outs. Johnson got a strikeout and a double play to escape the inning with no damage.   

Coe (22-20) got another double play to kill a Lawrence rally in the fourth, and the Vikings threatened again in the ffith. Ross got things started with a line drive single to left with one out. After Sandleback was hit by a pitch, a passed ball moved runners to second and third. Johnson got a strikeout and a comebacker to end the inning.    “We score one or two times, and the momentum shifts to us,” Krepline said of those decisive chances.   

The Kohawks weren’t having much luck against Lawrence starter Michael Duttlinger, who held them scoreless for five innings.    

A hit batsman got Coe’s rally started in the sixth, and Jack Allison’s one-out single barely eluded the glove of Jeffery Cambra in left to put runners at the corners. TJ Deardorff’s squeeze bunt scored Creighton Kreshel and Coe led 1-0. Coe then got a huge break when Tyler Elliott’s ground ball hit off the third base bag, and Allison scored for a 2-0 lead.   

Duttlinger allowed six hits over six innings, struck out three and walked two before giving way to Richie LaCien.    Freeman then led off the seventh with blast over the fence in left to trim the lead to 2-1. It was Freeman’s seventh homer of the season.   

“They threw me eight straight sliders,” Freeman said. “Luckily I was able to get to 1-0 (one ball, no strikes) in the at-bat. He gave me a two-seamer (fastball), and I was able to hit it out.”   

Miles then walked, and Knoll got a two-out single to put runners at the corners with two outs. Knoll swiped second, his school-record 35th steal of the season, to put two runners in scoring position. Johnson got a flyout to wriggle off the hook one more time.   

Ethan O’Donnell came on in relief for Coe and allowed just one hit over the final two innings to get the save.   

The Vikings broke numerous school records in 2022, but more importantly, this young team established themselves as a contender in the Midwest Conference for multiple years to come.    “I’m hungrier than ever to get back here,” Duttlinger said.    

With the potential of seven of the eight position players coming back next year and the return of the entire pitching staff, there’s a lot to be excited about.     “It’s going to be the expectation to get back here,” Krepline said.

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