MEQUON, Wis. (naccsports.org) --- Aurora University put up five runs in the top of the first inning and made it stand up, taking a winner-take-all Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Baseball Tournament final over Concordia University Chicago by a 5-2 score Sunday at Kapco Park.
The Spartans (34-9), the No. 2-seed, batted around in the first, loading the bases with just one out. Jett Wedekind pushed the first run across with an RBI single through the left side. After a strikeout, Dylan White followed with a two-run double down the right-field line, Jacob Bachio reached on a run-scoring error and Austin Wiskow rapped an RBI single to left center to leave the Spartans with a 5-0 lead.
The Cougars (38-7) had one runner reach in each of the first three innings off Aurora starter Nick Malmberg, but could not push a run across. Malmberg retired the side in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before running into a spot of bother in the seventh. CUC led off the bottom of the frame with singles by Brody Mariotti and Brayden Benavides sandwiched around a walk issued to Connor Brandon to load the bases. Mariotti scored on an Abelardo Paz Agudelo sacrifice fly to right to get the NACC regular-season champs on the board. After another fly-out left Concordia Chicago with runners on the corners, Matt Fauth ripped a single to right-center to score Brandon from third. The CUC threat was halted, however, when Fauth was thrown out at second trying to extend the hit into a double.
Zach Litke, who came on for CUC in the second after starter Noah Dressler's rough first inning, threw seven solid innings of scoreless relief. He scattered three hits and a walk while striking out four to keep the game within reach for the Cougars. Mike Tobin threw a scoreless ninth to leave the Cougars with a realistic chance in the bottom of the ninth. CUC was met by Aurora closer Nick Mathey, though. Mathey had allowed two hits in the eighth in relief of Malmberg, but retired CUC in order in the ninth to pick up his 11th save of the year.
Malmberg ended up with the win, improving to 5-1 overall after allowing two runs on five hits and a pair of walks while striking out a pair in seven innings. Dressler fell to 5-1 overall for CUC.
Leadoff hitter Davis Purviance was the only Spartan with multiple hits, finishing with two of Aurora's eight for the game. Seven of nine AU starters registered hits in the contest. Purviance was also busy in center field with 11 putouts. In all, 19 of CUC's 27 outs were fly-ball outs, including 16 to the outfield (Purviance 11, White 4, Bachio 1).
Mariotti and Bryan VanDuser each had two hits for CUC.
With the victory, Aurora earns the NACC's automatic berth in the 2019 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship. It will be the program's 22nd trip all-time. Concordia Chicago, which entered the weekend as the top ranked team in the Midwest Region, has a strong resume for one of the 10 at-large berths and could potentially host a regional round. The full field and regional assignments will be unveiled via a selection show at NCAA.com at 11 a.m. Monday morning. Competition begins next weekend (May 16-19) at 16 regional sites. Winners of those regional tournaments will advance to the Best-of-3 Super Regional round. The eight Super Regional champion will make up the field for the championship round to be held May 31-June 5 at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.