APPLETON, Wis. – The pitcher who was injured, written off and relegated to working innings in games that had already been won or lost continued his revival Sunday. Ryan Yates helped pitch the University of Southern Maine into another day of the NCAA Division III World Series.
Yates, a fifth-year senior, limited Webster (Mo.) University to four hits over six innings in a 7-2 victory. He handed the ball to Andrew Richards after walking the leadoff batter in the seventh inning. Richards pitched three innings of shutout relief.
“I didn’t have any butterflies. I wasn’t nervous,” said Yates. “I knew I had Richards waiting to come in and take over.”
Yates was being modest. Coach Ed Flaherty had to use nine pitchers in relief of injured ace Logan Carman on Saturday. Linfield College beat USM, 10-1. The burden to say alive in the double-elimination tournament was on Yates’ shoulders.
He lost one year to injury and worked through three other seasons of various shoulder and arm ailments and much lowered expectations. Flaherty loved Yates perseverance but didn’t think the home-schooled pitcher from the Western Maine town of Norway could be productive.
Yates convinced Flaherty with a strong performance on the spring trip to Florida and eventually won the No. 2 spot in the starting rotation behind Carman. Yates is 7-1. If USM gets to Tuesday’s national championship game, Yates could walk to the mound again for a few innings.
Not a power pitcher, Yates needs to keep the ball down and throw his curve for consistent strikes. Against Webster, he mixed his pitches well and kept his pitches down for the most part.
With a 2-0 lead, Yates gave up consecutive singles in the fifth inning to Webster’s No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, Ian Foege and Ryan Hall. Flaherty called for time and walked to the mound. The infielders joined the conference. Flaherty expected a sacrifice bunt and set up his defense.
In the bullpen, Richards thought he got the signal to come in and trotted to the mound. Flaherty looked up when Richards approached second base. The head coach had not signaled for a reliever.
“Richards just wants to pitch,” said Flaherty. “He had to make a U-turn.”
Cody Stevenson did bunt. Second baseman Anthony Pisani was a second late covering first. Yates fielded the bunt cleanly but hesitated, waiting for Pisani to set himself on first. Yates’ throw was wide, and two runs scored, tying the game.
Yates steadied himself and retired the side. Minutes later, John Carey put USM ahead for good with a line-drive homer to left. Tucker White followed with a double, Forrest Chadwick and Chris Bernard worked walks off starter Cody Hafeli, and suddenly the bases were loaded. Matt Verrier brought home a run with a sacrifice fly. Pisani singled, scoring Chadwick for a 5-2 lead.
It wasn’t the big hitting breakout Flaherty hoped for, but it was enough.
Then came a couple breaks and heads-up fielding.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, Corey Lasky hit a hard grounder up the middle. Instead of going through to center field, the ball hit the mound and bounced to Pisani, who ran to second base for a forceout and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
In the eighth, Taylor Stroulp led off with a double, then Mike Rainbolt blooped a hit into left-center. Shortstop Sam Dexter ran out while White and Chadwick converged from left and center field. Dexter dove but couldn’t make the play.
White, knowing Stroulp was waiting to see if the ball would be caught before breaking for third base, fielded the ball on a bounce and fired to Nick Grady at third, who tagged out Stroulp. Richards then got another double-play grounder to end the inning.
Webster loaded the bases again in the ninth, and again Richards got out of the jam. He has relieved in all three of USM’s games and wasn’t as effective Sunday in keeping runners off base.
But Webster never scored.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: