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UC San Diego Baseball Advances to NCAA Division II National Championship Game

Evan Kehoe drove in three runs and Guido Knudson pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as top-ranked UC San Diego punched its ticket to the national championship game with a 6-3 come-from-behind victory over No. 13 Franklin Pierce Thursday in the semifinals of the 2010 Division II Baseball National Finals at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

The Tritons (54-7), the only remaining unbeaten team in the tournament, will square off with No. 9 Southern Indiana in Saturday’s NCAA Division II National Championship game at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary.

After losing a 3-0 decision to third-ranked Georgia College & State on Thursday, USI bounced back to defeat the Bobcats 3-2 in the rematch on Friday to advance to Saturday’s title game. The Screaming Eagles trailed 2-0, but rallied for two runs in the fifth before scoring the eventual winning run in the seventh.

Southern Indiana enters Saturday’s championship tilt with an overall record of 51-14. Winners of 14 of their last 16 overall, the Screaming Eagles will be making the program’s first appearance in the final game.

UC San Diego, which reached the semifinal round of last year’s National Finals, is making its first-ever appearance in the title game. The Tritons are the first West Coast team to advance to the championship game since Chico State, also a member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in 2006.

A win by UC San Diego on Saturday, will mark the 11th by a CCAA institution and first since Chico State won it all in 1999.

Franklin Pierce, which posted back-to-back 6-2 victories after a first-round loss, finishes fourth in the National Finals and ends its season at 43-17-1.

UC San Diego was down a run when Aaron Bauman led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and advanced to third on Brandon Gregorich’s hit-and-run single. Kehoe’s rbi-double to right-center tied the game 3-3 and Gregorich scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Kehoe came home on Kellen Lee’s sacrifice fly to extend the Tritons’ lead to 5-3. Lee tripled in the eighth and scored on Grant Bauer’s safety squeeze.

Kehoe put UC San Diego on top 2-0 with a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the first. Vance Albitz drew a leadoff walk and Kyle Saul beat out a bunt single before Franklin Pierce starter Heath Wasylow (3-4) retired the next two batters.

Franklin Pierce answered in the top of the second as Mike Munoz drew a leadoff walk and scored on Eric Pearson’s double to left-center. One out later, Cody Kauffman gave the Ravens a 3-2 lead with a two-run homer over the left field fence. Four of Kauffman’s five hits in the tournament were for extra bases.

Knudson (10-3) took over for Triton starter Kirby St. John with one out in the top of the fifth after Kauffman led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice. Albitz threw Kauffman out at the plate on a ground ball to short and Knudson got out of the inning with a force at second.

After a batter’s interference call wiped out a two-out single to end the top of the seventh, Knudson retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth innings. He recorded his fourth strikeout of the game for the final out.

Georgia College defeated previously tournament unbeaten Southern Indiana 3-0 in Thursday’s first game. The two teams face each other again Friday at 11 a.m. with the winner advancing to the title game. Originally scheduled for early evening, the game was moved to a morning start due to rain forecast for the afternoon.

Regardless of Friday’s outcome, a first-time national champion will be crowned for the third consecutive year. First pitch for Saturday’s title game is scheduled for 12:07 p.m.