By virtue of a 7-0 loss at the hands of College of Idaho, Menlo is now forced to the brink of elimination in the Opening Round of the 2012 NAIA National Championship. The Oaks will need to roll off consecutive victories tomorrow (5/12), first against the winner of #4 Arizona Christian and #1 Azusa Pacific, and then against College of Idaho to stay alive in their 2012 campaign.
Faced with a similar situation in the 2012 NAIA West Playoff Tournament in Portland, Oregon the Oaks came through swimmingly with three straight wins, including two against the Coyotes from Caldwell, Idaho to secure their first ever National Championship appearance.
Menlo had little answer for College of Idaho starting pitcher Todd Griffiths. The senior from Meridian, Idaho kept an Oaks offense that had tallied 19 runs over their first two Opening Round tilts to a zero spot as part a complete game five-hit shutout win. Griffiths struck out nine and didn't allow a hit until Aaron Suarez-Lopez grounded one into left field leading off the top of the 6th.
College of Idaho jumped on the board first behind three straight one out singles in the bottom of the 1st. Zachary Fabricius grounded one up the middle and advanced to second on a Derek Martinez wild pitch. Then consecutive infield knocks from Jarel Lewis and Tanner Hodges brought Fabricius around for the first run of the contest.
Martinez, the Oaks starting pitcher, wiggled out of further trouble after catcher Ty Finley threw out Lewis attempting to advance to third on an errant Martinez offering and then struck out Jeffrey Harris to end the inning.
The game stayed at 1-0 until the bottom of the 4th inning when the Coyotes struck for two more. With two out and a runner at first, Brett Ward singled up the middle and then Martinez promptly hit Andrew Sewell to load the bases. Back to the top of the order and center fielder Tyler Andazola squeaked a two-run single into right field to extend the College of Idaho margin to 3-0.
The 3-0 advantage proved to be more than enough with the way Griffiths was throwing the baseball, and after a two-run home run by Jarel Lewis in the bottom of the 7th, the game was unofficially put on ice.
Martinez battled through seven innings in suffering the loss, as the junior from Palmdale scattered ten hits, walked four, and struck out five.
Menlo will likely turn to Derek Rodrigues to keep the season afloat on Saturday with first pitch against either Azusa Pacific or Arizona Christian scheduled for 1:00pm. An Oaks victory and they will take on College of Idaho for the fifth time in the playoffs at 5:00pm.