APPLETON, WIS. – Manchester University head coach Rick Espeset took a look at the big picture of what the 2013 Spartans did following a close-knit loss to Webster University of Missouri Saturday, May 25.
"I think (the run) started last year at the regional," he said of the Black and Gold's working to a 39-7-1 campaign. "Being so close to Marietta, these guys took that and started to build towards this. The 10 seniors helped lead us to the (Heartland Collegiate Athletic) conference title and move us through the conference and regional tournaments.
"It is so hard to get (to the NCAA Division III College World Series)," he added. "It was a great accomplishment to get to this point. It was a special season … 39 wins is the most in school history. We've had some good teams at Manchester, and this group put themselves in that territory."
MU, as it did in its opening game on Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium, grabbed an early lead with a run in the first due to junior third baseman Jordan Nieman's 71st run-batted-in. The Michigan City, Ind., native drove in senior outfielder Bryce Murphy (Ossian, Ind.) to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. They held the lead until the Gorlocks (37-11) tied it in the third and took the lead for good with two in the fourth.
The Black and Gold battled back to within one twice (3-2 and 4-3) but couldn't level the contest. The visitors added an insurance run in the eighth and then had to fight off a bottom of the ninth inning rally. Manchester University put two runners on with two outs and also had a lined shot to the right field wall off the bat of senior outfielder Austin Rieke (Fishers, Ind.) that was caught for the second out.
Senior shortstop Corey Marchant (Fort Wayne, Ind.) drilled a pair of singles as did sophomore designated hitter/outfielder Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) to top the offense's eight-hit attack. Senior starting pitcher Kyle Konarski (Elkhart, Ind.) threw seven strong innings, striking out six, to nearly match Webster starter Isaac Behme's complete-game effort.
"It is indescribable how special this year has been," Marchant reflected. "To be able to play with these guys who are also my friends was awesome. We transformed from teammates to family, growing together so much each year."