CARY, N.C. -- Junior Sean Grant (Statesville, N.C./W. Iredell HS) pitched into the eighth and Catawba rapped out 11 hits to knock off Henderson State 5-1 in the NCAA II Baseball National Finals on Monday night on Coleman Field at the USA National Training Complex. The second-ranked Catawba Indians improve to 46-13 and will next play on Thursday night at 7 pm against an opponent to be determined from action on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Reddies, ranked 15th, fall to 32-20.
Grant threw seven and two-thirds innings and allowed just one unearned run off five hits. He walked two and struck out one. Grant got his offensive support in the first three innings as the Indians plated a pair of runs in the first and three more in the third on a bases-clearing double by Chance Bowden (Salisbury, N.C./Salisbury HS).
Both teams entered Monday's contest with a perfect 5-0 record in this year's NCAA Tournament, including last weekend's regionals. It took just two batters for Catawba to take the lead. Blake Houston (Mt. Ulla, N.C./S. Rowan HS) rifled a double down the right field line and Austin Stilley (Thomasville, N.C./Ledford HS) followed with a double to left center and a 1-0 edge. Craig Brooks (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood HS) got home a second run when he beat out a potential double play ball on a grounder to third.
The Indians loaded the bases in the third when Will Albertson (Sophia, N.C./Randleman HS/Campbell) led off with a single, Brooks singled with one out and Dylan Richardson (Randleman, N.C./Randleman HS/Appalachian St.) beat out a bunt single. Bowden drove a 1-1 pitch on a line to left-center, to score all the runners and give Catawba a 5-0 lead.
Grant allowed only one hit over the first five innings and did not allow more than one base runner in an inning until the sixth. Henderson State would finally break through in that frame with an unearned run.
With one out, Hunter Mayall hit a bloop single to right-center to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. A fielding error at second negated a potential double play and gave the Reddies runners on first and second. After Grant got a fly out to shallow center, Lance Fields lined a single through the right side. Mayall scored, but Catawba right fielder Luke Setzer (Salisbury, N.C./E. Rowan HS) got a Henderson State runner going too far off of second. Mayall crossed the plate just a step before the out was recorded.
Grant (2-1) was making only his fourth start of the season in his 27th appearance. He was coming off seven shutout innings on two hits in the Southeast Region Championship Game against North Florida. Grant got out of the seventh by turning a one-hop comebacker into an inning-ending double play. Ryan McClintock (Matthews, N.C./Providence HS) got a groundout for the final out of the eighth inning after Grant gave up a double for Henderson State's only extra-base hit of the night. Brooks, who started the game at third base, struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
Catawba plays again Thursday at 7 p.m. and moves to within one win of reaching the Championship Game. Henderson State faces Angelo State Wednesday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game. The Reddies shut out Angelo State 4-0 Saturday in the first round.