CARY, N.C. – The Augustana baseball team fell 4-1 on Sunday night to the defending national champions in the opening game of the 2023 NCAA Division II World Series. North Greenville, the No. 2 seed in the tournament and No. 2 team in the polls used an eighth-inning rally to surpass the Vikings.

Augustana will now play in the elimination game on Tuesday at 12:30 PM.

After nothing was doing for either team in the first inning, Drey Dirksen worked a 3-2 walk to open the second inning. After being sacrificed to second base, the Vikings were unable to move him any further.

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The second, third, and fourth innings were much of the same with Seth Miller not allowing any damage with the Vikings on defense, but the AU offense also not getting much going.

Augustana ended the scoreless drought of the contest as Jack Hines hit a leadoff triple in the fifth inning. Ragan Pinnow then lifted a flyball into right field to score Hines on the sacrifice fly.

Immediately after scoring that first run, Miller shut down the Crusaders the following three innings, allowing just a single base runner via a hit-by-pitch. On the offensive side, Augustana worked a pair of baserunners in the top of the sixth which upped the pitch count of Reece Fields, NGU’s starting pitcher, but were unable to plate another run.

The Vikings threatened in the top of the eighth as Jason Axelberg walked and Trevor Winterstein singled to place runners on first and second. Both runners advanced on a fly out from the bat of Nick Banowetz. After a pitching change, Parker Mooney flew out to left field, and in an aggressive base-running move, head coach Tim Huber sent Axelberg home where he was just tagged out before touching home plate.

In the bottom of the eighth is when the defending national champions made their move, scoring their first runs of the game on a double to right field. The next batter, Marek Chlup, then belted the Crusader’s 88th home run of 2023 to make it a 4-1 ballgame.

The Vikings then went down in order in the top of the ninth to fall to 47-20 on the season. North Greenville improved to 50-9.

Augustana recorded three hits in the contest, one each from Winterstein, Mooney, and Hines.

Seth Miller shut down one of the nation’s top offenses for seven innings and ended with his line at 7.2 innings with one strikeout and two walks. Augustana chased Reece Fields after seven innings for the Crusaders while Michael Rodriguez earned the win with 1.2 innings pitched.

Augustana faces Southern New Hampshire on Tuesday with a 12:30 PM first pitch. The Penmen fell 2-1 to Angelo State earlier on Sunday.

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